Scientists have, for the first time, traced the nanoparticles taken up from the soil by crop plants and analysed the chemical states of their metallic elements. Zinc was shown to dissolve and accumulate throughout the plants, whereas the element cerium did not dissolve into plant tissue. The results contribute to the controversial debate on plant toxicity of nanoparticles and whether engineered nanoparticles can enter into the food chain. The study was published on 6 February 2013 in the journal ACS Nano.
The international research team was led by Jorge Gardea-Torresdey from the University of Texas in El Paso and also comprised scientists from the University of California in Santa Barbara, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford (California), and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble (France).
Nanoparticles are present everywhere, for example in the fine dust of wood fires. Even a simple chemical compound behaves differently as a nanoparticle, mostly due to the increased specific surface area and reactivity. These appealing properties are why so-called Engineered Nanoparticles (ENPs) are now widely used in industrial processing and consumer goods. At the same time, their high reactivity has raised concerns about their fate, transport and toxicity in the environment. "A growing number of products containing ENPs are in the market and eventually they will get into the soil, water and air. This is why it is very important to study the interactions of crops with nanoparticles, as their possible translocation into the food chain starts here." says Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, a Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The scientists focused on soya bean plants (glycine max), the fifth largest crop in global agricultural production, and the second in the U.S. The soil in which the plants were grown was mixed with zinc oxide (ZnO) and cerium dioxide (CeO2, nano
|Contact: Claus Habfast|
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility