“As the first study to examine the fate and effects of nanoparticles in marine ecosystems, we really didn’t know what to expect,” said Dr. Geoff Scott, the CCEHBR director, who collaborated with Drs. Michael Fulton and Paul Pennington, environmental toxicologists at the CCEHBR.
“This study enabled us to understand how these nanomaterials were transported and distributed through the ecosystem,” he said. “One significant finding is that bivalve shellfish, such as clams, accumulated a significant amount of the nanomaterial.”
The research has implications for all coastal environments and will provide a baseline for future studies on the environmental impact of nanomaterials, Scott said.
The study is significant because it shows that manmade nanoparticles can enter the estuarine food and ultimately could find their way into the shellfish and fish that humans eat, said Ferry.
“This study is a road map for where we go next,” he said. “We did not look at what happens ‘up the food chain.’ ”
Dr. Thomas Vogt, director of the university’s Nanocenter, said, “This landmark study points toward things to come in the near future when we enlarge our national and international R&D footprint even more by developing the recently endowed Center of Economic Excellence for Nanoenvironmental Research and Risk Assessment.”