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Novel approach estimates nanoparticles in environment
Date:5/20/2009

ood, and applying the rates of new technologies to convert it to the nanoparticle form found in journal articles and patent applications, we estimated the maximum ceiling amount."

Based on her calculations, Robichaud found that the production of titanium dioxide nanoparticles was negligible in 2002 and rose to about 2.5 percent of the total amount of titanium dioxide produced today. By 2015, nanoparticle production is estimated to be about 10 percent of the total, as more companies switch to newer technology. Under the most aggressive scenario, practically all of titanium dioxide in the U.S., about 2.5 million metric tons, would be in nanoparticle form by 2025, Robichaud concluded.

"Knowing the amount of this material is important because the more of it we make, the more likely it is to enter the environment and come into contact with humans with unknown consequences," said Mark Wiesner, professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior member of the research team. He also directs the federally funded Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), which is based at Duke.

"We do not have a good handle on how much is out there, and even less about what that might mean," he continued. "Finding an upper limit on the potential for exposure is the critical first step in assessing risk. Even if these nanoparticles are toxic, a low exposure to them may limit the risk. We just don't know yet. I like to use the example of sharks. Everyone knows they're dangerous, but not if you spend your entire life in Nebraska."

Now that the researchers have a better idea how much of this nanomaterial could be produced in the coming years, they plan to focus on specific types of products.

"We want to get a better idea of where in the process these nanoparticles might be released into the air, water or soil," Robichaud said. "It could be during mining, during the production of the nanoparticles, production of the sp
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
91-906-608-414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

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