Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are incorporated into thousands of commercial products, and their release into environmental systems creates complex mixtures with unknown toxicological outcomes. To explore this scenario, we probe the chemical and toxicological interactions of nanosilver (n-Ag) and nanotitania (n-TiO2) in Lake Michigan water, a natural aqueous medium, under dark conditions. We find that the presence of n-Ag induces a stress response in Escherichia coli, as indicated by a decrease in ATP production observed at low concentrations (in the μg L-1 range), with levels that are environmentally relevant. However, when n-Ag and n-TiO2 are present together in a mixture, n-TiO2 attenuates the toxicity of n-Ag at and below 20 μg L-1 by adsorbing Ag+(aq). We observe, however, that toxic stress cannot be explained by dissolved silver concentrations alone and, therefore, must also depend on silver associated with the nanoscale fraction. Although the attenuating effect of n-TiO2 on n-Ag's toxicity is limited, this study emphasizes the importance of probing the toxicity of ENM mixtures under environmental conditions to assess how chemical interactions between nanoparticles change the toxicological effects of single ENMs in unexpected ways.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry