12 January - 20 June 2016

Nanoparticles can enter the food chain

20 Feb 13

Zinc oxide (ZnO) and cerium dioxide (CeO2, nanoceria) nanoparticles (NPs) are among the most highly used NPs in industry. ZnO NPs are widely used in sunscreen products, as gas sensors, antibacterial agents, optical and electrical devices, and as pigments. Nanoceria is a catalyst for internal combustion and oil cracking processes, and is also used for gas sensors, sunscreen, and cosmetic creams. An international team based in the USA has conducted plant growth experiments to investigate uptake of these NPs into plant tissues. The study published in ACS Nano used synchrotron microfocused X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) and micro-X-ray absorption near-edge structure (μ-XANES) techniques to studies uptake of NPs into soybean tissues.  Key issues in studying the interaction of crop plants with NPs are the determination of their entrance in the food chain, their biotransformation, and the possible presence of the NPs or their derived products in the next plant generation. The results of this study showed that soybean plants grown in soil impregnated with ZnO NPs did not accumulate these NPs in the grains. The XANES data did suggest that there was translocation of Zn from ZnO NPs in soil grown soybean pods. Results also suggested that most of the Ce stored in the soybean pods was in the form of CeO2 NPs. It appears a small percentage of the Ce in the pod could be changing its oxidation state from Ce(IV) to Ce(III).  Overall, the results of these analyses have shown that CeO2 NPs in soil can be taken up by food crops. This suggests that CeO2 NPs can reach the food chain and the next soybean plant generation.

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