Environmental benefits and risks of zero-valent iron nanoparticles (nZVI): risk mitigation or trade-off?

Publication: Research - peer-reviewConference abstract in proceedings – Annual report year: 2009

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The use of nanoscaled particles in environmental remediation is gaining increasing amounts of attention in recent years, including the use of zero-valent iron nanoparticles (nZVI) for soil and groundwater remediation. The main advantages of its use include high degrees of reactivity towards a wide range of contaminants, enhanced mobility of the often coated particles, and its cost-effective in situ applications. Numerous studies have shown that compared to larger sized iron particles nZVI may have some superior properties, due to high surface areas and small sizes associated with nanoscale dimensions. While the use and further development of nZVI is understandably heralded as an environmentally-beneficial technology, the potentials risks of introducing these nanoparticles into the environment also needs to be considered. To date most research has focused on the potential benefits of nZVI and very little research has investigated its potential health and environmental risks. Nonetheless, some recent studies have documented adverse effects from its exposure including the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), oxidative stress, bactericidal effects, DNA damage, and inflammatory responses. Moreover, field site injections often involve the use of large quantities of nZVI (10-50 g/L) which may be directly injected into groundwater flow. Combined with the pursuit of designing more mobile and reactive particles, this may potentially lead to risks related to environmental exposures of substantial concentrations. In this study, we provide a brief synopsis of the expected environmental benefits and potential risks of nZVI, particularly focusing on its environmental fate and behavior and potential role as contaminant carrier. These are some areas of primary concern for risk assessors. Furthermore, we estimate and compare the span between probable environmental concentrations from its use in the field and concentrations which have been shown to cause adverse effects in laboratory settings. This is in light of the challenges that quantitative risk assessments face for nZVI and other nanoparticles, in part due to extensive and fundamental uncertainties. These data may provide a starting point to more thoroughly investigate the potential risks of nZVI and ultimately help scientists, engineers, and decision makers make better informed decisions regarding the use of nZVI for environmental remediation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
VolumeH41I-08
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Publication date2009
StatePublished

Conference

ConferenceAmerican Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2009
CountryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period14/12/0918/12/09
Internet addresshttp://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/
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