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Institut für Wasser- und Umweltsystemmodellierung - IWS



"A current status quo on nanoparticles as emerging contaminants: Sources, occurrence, distribution and fate"

Over the last two decades, there have been many articles reporting about new compounds known as “emerging contaminants”, which are unavoidably released in wastewater and the aquatic environment. The latest class added to the list of emerging contaminants includes nanoparticles. As human society has advanced technologically, it is inevitable that the exposure during manufacture and use to all kinds of nanoparticles has dramatically increased and will continue to increase in the coming years. However, although the promise of nanotechnology to improve our quality of life seems bright and unlimited, it is inevitable that some portion of these manufactured materials will be introduced into the environment. While there is no clear proof about the risk posed by the rapid development of nanotechnology and the use of such materials, preliminary evidence exists to suggest certain nanoparticles may potentially lead to harm to people, organisms and the environment. To date, the effe cts of nanoparticles in various organisms and environments have been addressed in a few nanotoxicology studies and this has eventually raised some concerns about the risk of nanoparticles and its usage. Nanoparticles may enter and accumulate in air, water, soil, or organisms from point sources as well as from nonpoint sources. The growing concerns from many scientific studies reveals that free nanoparticles can penetrate cellular barriers whilst exposure to some forms of nanoparticle can lead to an increased production of oxyradicals and potential oxidative damage to the cell. However the impact of the processes on determining nanomaterial occurrence, fate and the risk posed by such materials to human health and environment is currently unclear and poorly understood. Therefore, this study has been carried out to gather existing knowledge on the current status quo on nanoparticles as emerging contaminants and to identify gaps in knowledge in terms of sources, occurrence, distribution and fate of these materials that may need further research in the future. Three categories of nanoparticles; silver (Ag), titanium dioxide (TiO2), and zinc oxide (ZnO) have been featured in this study due to its frequent usage in many consumer products and its high potential to get eliminated and enter into the environment, and eventually affect both human health and ecosystems.