Nanoparticles found in food chain of tobacco hornworms

A new study by CEINT researchers provides the first evidence that nanoparticles can build up in a terrestrial food chain. Paul Bertsch and colleagues at the University of Kentucky have found that gold nanoparticles accumulate in tobacco plants and then concentrate further in tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta) as they feed on the plants (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es103031a).

Tobacco hornworms shown to accumulate gold nanoparticles.

Surprisingly, the nanoparticles were an order of magnitude more concentrated in the hornworms than in the plants. If organisms can't eliminate nanomaterials, it is possible that the chemicals could magnify as predators eat herbivores, possibly causing harm to animals near the top of the food chain.

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