Scientists are seeing a rising concern in tiny nanoparticles and the negative impacts they may have on the environment, such as water contamination.
A new study by the University of South Carolina Nanocenter and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Charleston examined whether manmade gold nanorods, produced from chemical synthesis, could pass from water to the marine food web. Once passed from industry and chemical technology, scientists are trying to see if these nanoparticles travel to water supply. Dr. John Ferry is with USC and says these tiny man made nanoparticles, which are too small to see, are increasingly becoming part of the economy.
“The study is significant because right now we are trying to figure out as these things start to work their way into the economy as products, whether or not they are something we need to worry about, and if we need to worry about them, where do we need to worry about them at,” says Ferry.
Ferry explains the two major ways people are thinking nanoparticles may be affecting the environment:
“In the atmosphere. We know nanoparticles move through the air very easily, and you could imagine them depositing during a rain event, and by mechanical degradation, so if you had two particles rubbing against each other, sitting in a landfill, slowly decaying with time,” says Ferry.
And time is what these scientists need. Ferry says they want to prevent future problems in the environment.
“For once, we are looking where trouble is going to be before it shows up. When it comes to environmental contamination, in this country, our focus has been on putting out fires. When it comes to these nanoparticles, the government is funding research to go out there and to look first where the troubles are going to be. This is such a huge and fundamental change in the way environmental science of any kind is pursued in this country,” says Ferry.
Ferry says there is still no direct answer to these nanoparticles carry contamination into the water supply, but they have already started other studies to zoom in on where they can begin to look for problems.