Environmental and human health risks of aerosolized silver nanoparticles

TitleEnvironmental and human health risks of aerosolized silver nanoparticles
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsQuadros ME, Marr LC
JournalJ Air Waste Manag Assoc
Date Published08/2010
ISBN Number1096-2247 (Print)1096-2247 (Linking)
Accession Number20681424
Keywords*Environmental Exposure, Air Pollutants/chemistry/*toxicity, Environmental Monitoring, Humans, Metal Nanoparticles/chemistry/*toxicity, Silver/chemistry/*toxicity

Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are gaining attention from the academic and regulatory communities, not only because of their antimicrobial effects and subsequent product applications, but also because of their potential health and environmental risks. Whereas AgNPs in the aqueous phase are under intensive study, those in the atmosphere have been largely overlooked, although it is well established that inhalation of nanoparticles is associated with adverse health effects. This review summarizes the present state of knowledge concerning airborne AgNPs to shed light on the possible environmental exposure scenarios that may accompany the production and popularization of silver nanotechnology consumer products. The current understanding of the toxicity of AgNPs points toward a potential threat via the inhalation exposure route. Nanoparticle size, chemical composition, crystal structure, surface area, and the rate of silver ion release are expected to be important variables in determining toxicity. Possible routes of aerosolization of AgNPs from the production, use, and disposal of existing consumer products are presented. It is estimated that approximately 14% of silver nanotechnology products that have been inventoried could potentially release silver particles into the air during use, whether through spraying, dry powder dispersion, or other methods. In laboratory and industrial settings, six methods of aerosolization have been used to produce airborne AgNPs: spray atomization, liquid-flame spray, thermal evaporation-condensation, chemical vaporization, dry powder dispersion, and manual handling. Fundamental uncertainties remain about the fate of AgNPs in the environment, their short- and long-term health effects, and the specific physical and chemical properties of airborne particles that are responsible for health effects. Thus, to better understand the risks associated with silver nanotechnology, it is vital to understand the conditions under which AgNPs could become airborne.