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NANO2021-Nanoteknologi og nye materiale

Investigating the ENvironmental impacts of TRANSformed engineered nanomaterials released from wastewater treatment plants

Alternative title: Undersøkelser av miljøpåvirkninger fra transformerte syntetiske nanomaterialer i utslipp fra renseanlegg

Awarded: NOK 11.9 mill.

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Project Period:

2020 - 2024


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As the production, diversity and use of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) is, there are corresponding increases in ENM emissions to wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) from domestic and industrial sources. Due to their dynamic nature, ENM undergo significant physicochemical transformations during transport through WWTPs and further when emitted to the natural environment. This leads to altered ENM characteristics which can have a further impact on their fate, bioavailability and effects on organisms. ENTRANS addresses the research challenge of understanding the environmental impacts of transformed ENM released from WWTP on organisms from relevant environmental compartments (soils and sediments). ENTRANS provides (i) an improved understanding of the behaviour and transformation of ENM following release from WWTPs, (ii) environmental ENM levels that are currently missing, (iii) effects assessment of transformed ENM, (iv) integration of data for modelling fate, exposure and toxicity. Isotopically enriched ENM, encompassing 68ZnO, 46TiO2, and 109Ag were successfully synthesized using methods developed within the project. The use of such isotopically labelled ENM in experiments allows their fate to be traced at low, environmentally relevant exposure concentrations even in the presence of high backgrounds of similar natural particles. A pilot WWTP operating with real municipal wastewater was used to investigate the fate and transformation of the isotopically enriched ENM in the WWTP. The ENM were spiked into the WWTP and the digested sewage sludge and effluents of the WWTP were collected for uptake and toxicity assessment evaluation. The targeted ENM concentrations (in mg/kg /dry weight) in the sludge were achieved and as expected, significantly lower concentrations were measured in the effluent (e.g. ng/L for Ag). The effluents from the WWTP were used for aqueous exposure of benthic amphipods (Hyalella azteca) to investigate in detail the uptake, fate and biodistribution of the ENM in the invertebrates. First results show an impact of the WWTP process on the bioavailability of ENM in amphipods. Furthermore, the potential impact of salinity (freshwater vs. marine/brackish) on ENM availability is investigated. Ongoing and next steps include the uptake and long-term effects assessment of ENM on filter-feeding bivalves and long-term sublethal effects on epibenthic and sediment-dwelling organisms, as such organisms are considered most at risk to ENM exposure. Existing protocols for the respective biomarker assessment need to be adapted and optimized for the used species. The digested sludge will be used in experiments that focus on the fate and behavior of the ENM that were applied via the sludge in soil columns. This will allow assessments of the ENM bioavailability, uptake and long-term effects at low and environmentally relevant concentrations on terrestrial organisms. In an effort to simplify experiments with transformed ENM without inclusion of the laborious WWTP step, method development to generate artificially aged ENM is ongoing, to compare the fate and toxicological effects of pristine and transformed ENM. The project outcomes are expected to support the development of modelling and risk assessment tools for the sustainable development and use of nanotechnologies and ENM.

ENTRANS will study the transformation of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and following their release in wastewater and sludge effluents, and how these transformations subsequently impact ENM bioavailability and toxicity to organisms from the soil and sediment environments considered the final sinks for ENMs. Isotopically labelled ENMs of ZnO, TiO2, Ag will be synthesized and used to differentiate ENM from natural particles at the low, environmentally relevant concentrations expected. The labelled ENM will allow transformation in a pilot WWTP system and biosolids that are applied to agricultural land to be studied more clearly, while their application as tracers will enable the potential uptake, biodistribution, depuration and impacts of ENM in different organisms to be studied more effectively. During the project the ENM occurrence and environmental levels will be determined in samples collected from WWTPs in Trondheim and Oslo and from sludge-amended soils. State of the art analytical and microscopy techniques will be employed to provide occurrence, form and exposure levels in WWTP biosolids applied in agricultural land in Norway, receiving soils and sediments. The transformation processes, exposure and uptake, biodistribution and toxicity data will be carefully generated so that the obtained results can be integrated into computational fate and exposure models and a risk assessment can be performed. During the project we will address key topics and bridge knowledge gap on sediment, soil health, nanomaterial transformation and environmental occurrence levels. The data generated during this study will be presented to stakeholders and interested parties and suggestions towards waste management will be provided. Moreover, the project will provide recommendations for OECD guideline developments and waste regulation supporting a more sustainable development and use of nanotechnology.

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Funding scheme:

NANO2021-Nanoteknologi og nye materiale

Thematic Areas and Topics

Responsible Research & InnovationRRI Utviklings- og prosessorienteringFNs BærekraftsmålMål 14 Liv under vannFNs BærekraftsmålMål 15 Liv på landLTP2 Klima, miljø og miljøvennlig energiPolitikk- og forvaltningsområderForskningBransjer og næringerMiljø - NæringsområdeFNs BærekraftsmålFNs BærekraftsmålMål 12 Ansvarlig forbruk og produksjonLTP2 HavPortefølje HelseGrunnforskningLandbrukJordLTP2 Muliggjørende og industrielle teknologierLTP2 Fagmiljøer og talenterBransjer og næringerLTP2 Et kunnskapsintensivt næringsliv i hele landetPortefølje Naturvitenskap og teknologiNaturmangfold og miljøGlobale miljøutfordringerResponsible Research & InnovationLTP2 Marine bioressurser og havforvaltningNaturmangfold og miljøTerrestrisk forurensning inkl. miljøgifterLTP2 Styrket konkurransekraft og innovasjonsevneLTP2 Nano-, bioteknologi og teknologikonvergensPortefølje LivsvitenskapHelseMarinLTP2 Helse, forebygging og behandlingLTP2 Utvikle fagmiljøer av fremragende kvalitetNanoteknologi/avanserte materialerNanovitenskap og -teknologiPortefølje Landbasert mat, miljø og bioressurserAnvendt forskningInternasjonaliseringInternasjonalt prosjektsamarbeidPolitikk- og forvaltningsområderMiljø, klima og naturforvaltningNaturmangfold og miljøMarin forurensning inkl. miljøgifterMarinMarin forurensning inkl. miljøgifterLTP2 Klima, polar og miljøPortefølje Industri og tjenestenæringerPolitikk- og forvaltningsområderHelse og omsorgNaturmangfold og miljøLTP2 Fornyelse i offentlig sektorPortefølje Muliggjørende teknologierLandbrukNanoteknologi/avanserte materialerFNs BærekraftsmålMål 6 Rent vann og gode sanitærforholdResponsible Research & InnovationRRI MedvirkningPolitikk- og forvaltningsområderNanoteknologi/avanserte materialerHelse, miljø og sikkerhetInternasjonaliseringPortefølje Hav