Researchers contend that manufactured nanomaterials--now popular in consumer products such as shampoos, gels, hair dyes and sunscreens--may be detrimental to the quality and yield of food crops, as reported in a paper in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Manufactured nanomaterials are man-made materials produced by manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Their effects on human health and the environment are the subject of much scientific study.
"As MNMs are used more and more in consumer products, there is a higher likelihood that they will end up in wastewater treatment facilities," said lead researcher John Priester, an environmental scientist at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Conventionally-treated wastewater is a primary source of normally nutrient-rich organic materials applied to agricultural soil, and farmers beneficially use this treated water and the biosolids from it as fertilizer. As MNMs become more prevalent, there is concern about MNM buildup in soils and possible MNM entry into the food supply.
Priester and his research team reasoned that no single study had before examined the full implications of environmental buildup of MNMs for a soil-based food crop. The researchers sought to fill the knowledge gap by fully growing soybean plants through the seed production stage in soil amended with high-production nanomaterials.
Soybeans are a major global commodity. They are the fifth-largest crop in global agricultural production and second-largest crop in the United States. Moreover in 2009, the United States exported enough of the crop to create a $29.6 billion domestic soybean economy, making it a good candidate for study.
The research was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation. In undertaking this study, Priester worked with scientists from NASA's Jet Prop
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation