Understanding the physico-chemical behaviour and toxicity of silver, copper and plastic NANOparticles as Emerging Materials of Concern in coastal waters
is supported by Croatian Science Foundation

In parallel with the growing use of nanoparticle-containing products, their release into the environment over the coming years is expected to increase significantly. Much of the research on the behaviour and fate of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in the environment has focused on terrestrial aquatic systems (lakes, rivers and groundwater) due to the expectation that ENPs would eventually be degraded in these systems without significant transport to other environmental compartments. However, with many large population centres located in near-coastal areas, the potential environmental load of nanoparticles in estuarine and coastal waters over the coming years is enormous. As there is increasing evidence that various nanoparticles may be toxic to a range of organisms, biota in estuarine and coastal waters may thus be particularly vulnerable. However, available data on how nanoparticles behave in high strength electrolytes, in particular the effect of their coating on colloidal stability, speciation or ion release kinetics are scarce. Further, environmental processes control the aging and biological functioning of ENPs, yet there is little data on how such aged nanoparticles interact with the wide range of diverse organisms in brackish and coastal waters.

The results from this project will provide a systematic overview of the behaviour of selected ENPs in brackish and marine waters as a function of abiotic parameters. The ability of different types of natural organic matter in different strength electrolytes to (de)stabilise ENPs will provide key baseline data from which to probe ENPs toxicity to biota across different trophic levels. This will give for the first time an indication of the sensitivity of selected organism towards these ENPs and hence allow guidance on maximum permissible levels in specific environmental compartments. The tests used in this work are intended to be harmonised to international best practice and hence contribute to efforts to achieve grouping and read-across of ENP behaviour and toxicity.

Ultimately, this interdisciplinary project will provide the basis for gaining an understanding of the role and fate of emerging contaminants in sensitive aquatic environments, will support capacity building by bringing together research groups from different institutions and will develop a broad range of key transferrable skills in young researchers in the field of environmental research.