Role of particle size and soil type in toxicity of silver nanoparticles to earthworms

TitleRole of particle size and soil type in toxicity of silver nanoparticles to earthworms
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsShoults-Wilson, WA, Reinsch, BC, Tsyusko, OV, Bertsch, PM, Lowry, GV, Unrine, JM
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Date PublishedMar-Apr
ISBN Number0361-5995
Accession Number

Silver nanoparticles (NPs) are an emerging contaminant of concern due to their increased use. The earthworm Eisenia fetida was exposed to a range of concentrations of AgNO3 and two polyvinylpyrolidone coated Ag NPs with different particle size distributions. They were exposed in two different soils: a naturally occurring sandy loam and a standardized artificial soil. The AgNO3 significantly reduced E. fetida growth and reproduction at 7.41 +/- 0.01 mg kg(-1) Ag in the sandy loam but only reproduction was affected at concentrations of 94.1 +/- 3.2 mg kg(-1) in the artificial soil. In the artificial soil, significant (alpha = 0.05) reproductive toxicity was only observed in organisms exposed to the Ag NPs at concentrations approximately eight times higher than those at which the effects from ionic Ag were observed. Eisenia fetida exposed to either AgNO3 or Ag NPs in the sandy loam accumulated significantly (alpha = 0.05) higher concentrations of Ag than those exposed in the artificial soil and had higher bioaccumulation factors. Earthworms exposed to AgNO3 also accumulated significantly higher concentrations of Ag than those exposed to Ag NPs. No differences in toxicity were observed between the two size distributions. Extended x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy analysis of the soils indicated that the Ag was approximately 10 to 17% Ag(1), suggesting that Ag ions may be responsible for effects on growth and development caused by exposure to Ag NPs. Our results also suggest that soil type is a more important determinant of Ag accumulation from Ag NPs than particle size.