TiO2 nanoparticles in irrigation water mitigate impacts of aged Ag nanoparticles on soil microorganisms, Arabidopsis thaliana plants, and Eisenia fetida earthworms.Environ Res. 2019 05; 172:202-215.ER
Treated wastewater is reclaimed to irrigate crops in a growing number of arid and semi-arid areas. In order to study the impacts of metallic nanoparticles (NPs) present in treated wastewater on soil ecosystems, a soil micro-ecosystem containing Arabidopsis thaliana plants, soil microorganisms, and Eisenia fetida earthworms was developed. The soil was irrigated with deionized water containing environmentally relevant concentrations of 70 µg/L of TiO2 NPs; or 20 µg/L of an Ag mixture, which included 90% (w/w) Ag2S NPs, 7.5% (w/w) Ag0 NPs, and 2.5% (w/w) Ag+ to represent speciation of aged Ag NPs in treated wastewater; or a combination of the TiO2 NPs and the Ag mixture to reflect the frequent presence of both types of materials in treated wastewater. It was found that TiO2 NPs alone were not toxic to the soil micro-ecosystem. Irrigation water containing 20 µg/L of the Ag mixture significantly reduced the soil microbial biomass, and inhibited the growth of plants and earthworms; however, a combination of 70 µg/L of TiO2 and 20 µg/L of Ag did not show toxic impact on organism growth compared to the Control of deionized water irrigation. Taken together, these results indicate the importance of investigating the effects of different nanomaterials in combination as they are introduced to the environment-with environmentally relevant concentrations and speciation-instead of only selecting a single NP type or residual ion. Moreover, the results of this study support the safe application of reclaimed water from wastewater treatment plants for use in agricultural lands in regard to limited concentrations of aged NPs (i.e., TiO2 and Ag) if present in combination.