Natural and Engineered Nanoparticles and Lessons for Microplastic Research

Apr 17, 2017  |  11:00am | Pine Room (BH 3526)
Thilo Hofmann

The production and use of engineered nanoparticles (ENP) inevitably leads to their release into aquatic environments. Concerns therefore arise over the possibility that ENPs might pose a threat to consumers and the environment. Investigations on the vulnerability of natural systems to ENPs are hampered by the absence of suitable analytical methods that are capable of detecting and quantifying ENPs in complex aqueous matrices. Analytical data concerning the presence of ENPs is therefore scarce. The eventual fate of ENPs in the natural environment are currently being investigated through laboratory based-experiments and modelling. Although the information obtained from these studies may not, as yet, be sufficient to allow comprehensive assessment of the complete life-cycle of ENPs, it does provide a valuable and important starting point for predicting the relevance of ENPs.
On the other side, also natural nanoparticles NNPs do play a major role in the environment, e.g. on the speciation and the mobility of many elements, including adsorpted contaminants. Many principles now applied to the understanding of ENPs did arise from earlier research on NNPs, being to some extend overlooked in the early stages of the nano-environment research.
More recently, microplastics (MPs) have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern in aquatic environments and research into their behavior and fate has been sharply increasing in recent years. Nevertheless, significant gaps remain in our understanding of several crucial aspects of MP exposure and risk assessment, including the quantification of emissions, dominant fate processes, types of analytical tools required for characterization and monitoring, and adequate laboratory protocols for analysis and hazard testing. One could identify transferrable knowledge and experience from engineered nanoparticle (ENP) exposure assessment by comparing ENPs and MPs based on their similarities as particulate contaminants, whereas critically discussing specific differences.
This talk will address both NNPs and ENPs in aquatic environments, and will try to highlight some research priorities to support an efficient development of tools and methods for MPs environmental risk assessment.

Event TypeSeminar