Jason Unrine, University of Kentucky, and colleagues are perhaps the first to demonstrate that a soil organism can ingest gold nanoparticles from their surrounding soil and accumulate them in their tissues. This CEINT-sponsored research was published in a paper titled, "Evidence for Bioavailability of Au Nanoparticles from Soil and Biodistribution within Earthworms (Eisenia fetida)," Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es101565j).
Near the bottom of the food chain, earthworms can accumulate nanoparticles.
Manufacturers are incorporating nanoparticles into hundreds of widely available consumer products, such as plastics, cosmetics and clothing. Normal use of these products can release nanoparticles into wastewater, where they end up in sewage sludge, which is often applied to agricultural fields as a fertilizer. Since earthworms are near the bottom of the food chain, their findings are important in understanding exposure to nanoparticles in food webs.
Read more about the impacts of this research online:
Nanoparticles Worm Their Way Into The Food Web, Chemical & Engineering News | 10.01.2010