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Exposure Modeling of Engineered Nanoparticles in the Environment

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journal contribution
posted on 15.06.2008, 00:00 by Nicole C. Mueller, Bernd Nowack
The aim of this study was to use a life-cycle perspective to model the quantities of engineered nanoparticles released into the environment. Three types of nanoparticles were studied: nano silver (nano-Ag), nano TiO2 (nano-TiO2), and carbon nanotubes (CNT). The quantification was based on a substance flow analysis from products to air, soil, and water in Switzerland. The following parameters were used as model inputs: estimated worldwide production volume, allocation of the production volume to product categories, particle release from products, and flow coefficients within the environmental compartments. The predicted environmental concentrations (PEC) were then compared to the predicted no effect concentrations (PNEC) derived from the literature to estimate a possible risk. The expected concentrations of the three nanoparticles in the different environmental compartments vary widely, caused by the different life cycles of the nanoparticle-containing products. The PEC values for nano-TiO2 in water are 0.7−16 µg/L and close to or higher than the PNEC value for nano-TiO2 (<1 µg/L). The risk quotients (PEC/PNEC) for CNT and nano-Ag were much smaller than one, therefore comprising no reason to expect adverse effects from those particles. The results of this study make it possible for the first time to carry out a quantitative risk assessment of nanoparticles in the environment and suggest further detailed studies of nano-TiO2.