Release of Metal Impurities from Carbon Nanomaterials Influences Aquatic Toxicity

TitleRelease of Metal Impurities from Carbon Nanomaterials Influences Aquatic Toxicity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHull, MS, Kennedy, AJ, Steevens, JA, Bednar, AJ, Weiss, JCA, Vikesland, PJ
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Type of Articledoi: 10.1021/es802483p
ISBN Number0013-936X

Few studies have considered the environmental impacts of impurities and byproducts associated with low-efficiency nanomanufacturing processes. Here, we study the composition and aquatic toxicity of low-purity, as-produced fullerenes (C60) and metallofullerene waste solids, both of which were generated via arc-discharge synthesis. Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS) were used to characterize the metals composition of the solid test materials and of aqueous leachates prepared by mixing test materials with waters of varying pH, hardness, and salinity. The aquatic toxicity of the leachates was determined using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended aquatic bioassay protocols with two standard test organisms-Pimephales promelas and Ceriodaphnia dubia. Results indicated that metals associated with the solid test materials became mobilized in our test system upon interaction with waters of circumneutral pH and reached concentrations sufficient to induce toxicity in both test species. Acute (48 h) LC50 values for P. promelas and C. dubia exposed to leachates prepared from metallofullerene waste solids were 54 and 5% (as % leachate in diluent), respectively. Toxicity was eliminated after adding the chelator EDTA to the leachates, implicating divalent transition metals as the toxicity source. Our results demonstrate the aquatic toxicity of metals mobilized from products and byproducts of nanomanufacturing, and they emphasize the need for a global review of nanomanufacturing wastes and low-purity products.