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Ecotoxicological effects of carbon based nanomaterials in aquatic organisms

Freixa, Anna, Acuña, Vicenç, Sanchís, Josep, Farré, Marinella, Barceló, Damià, Sabater, Sergi
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.619-620 pp. 328-337
aquatic ecosystems, aquatic environment, aquatic organisms, carbon nanotubes, ecotoxicology, fullerene, graphene, physicochemical properties, pollutants, sorbents, toxicity, uncertainty
An increasing amount of carbon-based nanomaterials (CNM) (mostly fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and graphene) has been observed in aquatic systems over the last years. However, the potential toxicity of these CNM on aquatic ecosystems remains unclear. This paper reviews the existing literature on the toxic effects of CNM in aquatic organisms as well as the toxic effects of CNM through influencing the toxicity of other micro-pollutants, and outlines a series of research needs to reduce the uncertainty associated with CNMs toxic effects. The results show that environmental concentrations of CNM do not pose a threat on aquatic organisms on their own. The observed concentrations of CNM in aquatic environments are in the order of ngL⁻¹ or even lower, much below than the lowest observed effect concentrations (LOEC) on different aquatic organisms (in the order of mgL⁻¹). Toxic effects have been mainly observed in short-term experiments at high concentrations, and toxicity principally depends on the type of organisms, exposition time and CNM preparation methods. Moreover, we observed that CNM interact (establishing synergistic and/or antagonistic effects) with other micro-pollutants. Apparently, the resulting interaction is highly dependent on the chemical properties of each micro-pollutant, CNM acting either as carriers or as sorbents, thereby modifying the original toxicity of the contaminants. Results stress the need of studying the interactive effects of CNM with other micro-pollutants at environmental relevant concentrations, as well as their effects on biological communities in the long-term.