Effects of nanosilver on Daphnia magna and pimephales promelas.

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Effects of nanosilver on Daphnia magna and pimephales promelas.

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The increasing use of nanosilver in consumer products and the likelihood of environmental exposure warrant investigation into the toxicity of nanosilver to aquatic organisms. A series of studies were conducted comparing the potency of nanosilver to ionic silver (Ag+) at acute and sublethal levels. The results of these tests were examined for evidence that nanosilver acts by a different mechanism of toxicity than Ag+, with the goal of estimating the adequacy of current water quality regulations based on the toxicity of Ag+ to protect against environmental effects of nanosilver. A variety of simple methods to separate Ag+ from nanosilver by physical exclusion or charge selectivity were assessed in preliminary studies for the ability to provide insight into the mechanism of nanosilver toxicity. In a definitive study, ion exchange resin was used to remove Ag+ from nanosilver (confirmed by the complete removal of silver from AgNO3 solutions) in order to determine the importance of Ag+ to acute toxicity of nanosilver to Daphnia magna. The acute toxicity of nanosilver to D. magna after ion exchange was shown to be similar to that of untreated nanosilver, suggesting that Ag+ did not contribute significantly to the toxicity of the suspensions, or that ion release occurred rapidly after ion exchange. D. magna juveniles were exposed to four sizes of nanosilver (10, 20, 30 and 50 nm) and Ag+ and 48-h LC50s were calculated for each material. Based on mass concentrations, all nanosilver sizes were less acutely toxic than Ag+, and a trend of increasing toxicity with decreasing average diameter of nanosilver was observed, with LC50s ranging from 19-42 times higher than that of Ag+. Calculations of nanosilver specific surface area and theoretical surface atoms revealed little to no difference in LC50s among the four sizes, suggesting that toxicity may be dependent on the surface properties of nanosilver. Equivalent calculations for an ionic Ag exposure series resulted in the finding that, in terms of total surface Ag atoms, all sizes of nanosilver were more acutely toxic than equivalent exposures of pure Ag+. This implies either that a second mechanism of toxicity exists for nanosilver which increases its overall potency, or that the calculation of surface atoms was an underestimate due to the continuous release of Ag+ from nanosilver into the matrix. Acute-to-chronic ratios (ACRs) were obtained for Pimephales promelas (<24 hours post hatch) exposed to both Ag+ and nanosilver, to test the hypothesis that a difference in these ratios would indicate different mechanisms of toxicity. The results of 96-h acute and 7-day sublethal toxicity tests produced ACRs for Ag+ and nanosilver that were not significantly different based on their overlapping confidence intervals. Furthermore, the observation that the nanosilver ACR was smaller than that of Ag+, suggest that if there is a separate toxicity mechanism in nanosilver, it is unlikely to result in environmental effects beyond those that would be expected from an Ag+ exposure. Further studies are needed to determine the degree to which the results of the ion exchange and size-dependent toxicity tests can be attributed to nanosilver dissolution. Overall, the results of these tests do not provide unambiguous evidence for a mechanism of nanosilver toxicity other than Ag+. The U.S. EPA maximum allowable silver concentration for natural waters is based on dissolved silver, defined as that which passes through a 0.45 μm filter, which is considerably larger than the average size of nanosilver aggregates in the exposure media. Therefore, the presence of nanosilver in the environment will increase the apparent dissolved Ag concentration, resulting in increased protectiveness of this criterion.


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. August 2010. Major: Integrated Biosciences. Advisor: Dr. David R. Mount. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 89 pages, appendices A-D.

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Hoheisel, Sarah M.. (2010). Effects of nanosilver on Daphnia magna and pimephales promelas.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/101701.

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