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Long-term effects of sulfidized silver nanoparticles in sewage sludge on soil microflora

: Kraas, Marco; Schlich, Karsten; Knopf, Burkhard; Wege, Franziska; Kägi, Ralf; Terytze, Konstantin; Hund-Rinke, Kerstin

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Environmental toxicology 36 (2017), Nr.12, S.3305-3313
ISSN: 1520-4081
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer IME ()
nanoecotoxicology; soil ecotoxicology; nanoparticle; sulfidized Ag nanoparticle; sewage sludge; transmission electron microscopy

The use of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) in consumer products such as textiles leads to their discharge into wastewater and consequently to a transfer of the AgNPs to soil ecosystems via biosolids used as fertilizer. In urban wastewater systems (e.g., sewer, wastewater treatment plant [WWTP], anaerobic digesters) AgNPs are efficiently converted into sparingly soluble silver sulfides (Ag2S), mitigating the toxicity of the AgNPs. However, long-term studies on the bioavailability and effects of sulfidized AgNPs on soil microorganisms are lacking. Thus we investigated the bioavailability and long-term effects of AgNPs (spiked in a laboratory WWTP) on soil microorganisms. Before mixing the biosolids into soil, the sludges were either anaerobically digested or directly dewatered. The effects on the ammonium oxidation process were investigated over 140 d. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) suggested an almost complete sulfidation of the AgNPs analyzed in all biosolid samples and in soil, with Ag2S predominantly detected in long-term incubation experiments. However, despite the sulfidation of the AgNPs, soil ammonium oxidation was significantly inhibited, and the degree of inhibition was independent of the sludge treatment. The results revealed that AgNPs sulfidized under environmentally relevant conditions were still bioavailable to soil microorganisms. Consequently, Ag2S may exhibit toxic effects over the long term rather than the short term.