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Long-term effects of three different silver sulfide nanomaterials, silver nitrate and bulk silver sulfide on soil microorganisms and plants

: Schlich, Karsten; Hoppe, Martin; Kraas, Marco; Schubert, Jonas; Chanana, Munish; Hund-Rinke, Kerstin


Environmental pollution 242 (2018), Pt.B, S.1850-1859
ISSN: 0013-9327
ISSN: 0269-7491
Fraunhofer IME ()
silver nanomaterials; sulfidation; ecotoxicology; soil; plant uptake

Silver nanomaterials (AgNMs) are released into sewers and consequently find their way to sewage treatment plants (STPs). The AgNMs are transformed en route, mainly into silver sulfide (Ag2S), which is only sparingly soluble in water and therefore potentially less harmful than the original AgNMs. Here we investigated the toxicity and fate of different sulfidized AgNMs using an exposure scenario involving the application of five different test materials (NM-300K, AgNO3, Ag2S NM-300K, Ag2S NM and bulk Ag2S) into a simulated STP for 10 days. The sewage sludge from each treatment was either dewatered or anaerobically digested for 35 days and then mixed into soil. We then assessed the effect on soil microorganisms over the next 180 days. After 60 days, a subsample of each test soil was used to assess chronic toxicity in oat plants (Avena sativa L) and a potential uptake into the plants. The effect of each AgNM on the most sensitive test organism was also tested without the application of sewage sludge. Although Ag sulfidized species are considered poorly soluble and barely bioavailable, we observed toxic effects on soil microorganisms. Furthermore, whether or not the AgNM was sulfidized before or during the passage through the STP, comparable effects were observed on ammonium oxidizing bacteria after sewage sludge application and incubation for 180 days. We observed the uptake of Ag into oat roots following the application of all test substances, confirming their bioavailability. The oat shoots generally containing less Ag than the roots.