Are gold nanoparticles and microplastics mixtures more toxic to the marine microalgae Tetraselmis chuii than the substances individually?Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Oct 15; 181:60-68.EE
The widespread use of microplastics and nanomaterials resulting in environmental contamination is of high concern. Microplastics have been found to modulate the toxicity of other environmental contaminants. Thus, the hypothesis that microplastics increase the toxicity of gold nanoparticles to the marine microalgae Tetraselmis chuii was tested. In a laboratory bioassay, T. chuii cultures were exposed for 96 h to ∼5 nm diameter gold nanoparticles (AuNP) and to virgin 1-5 μm diameter microplastics (MP), alone and in mixture. The treatments were: control; citrate-control; AuNP alone (0.1, 0.3 and 3 mg/L); MP alone (0.3, 0.9 and 4 mg/L) and mixture of the two substances in three different concentrations (0.1 mg/L AuNP + 0.3 mg/L MP; 0.3 mg/L AuNP + 0.9 mg/L MP; 3 mg/l AuNP + 4 mg/L MP). The effect criterion was the inhibition of the average specific growth rate. AuNP alone and MP alone did not cause significant decrease of T. chui average specific growth rate up to 3 mg/L and 4 mg/L, respectively. The mixture containing 3 mg/L AuNP + 4 mg/L MP significantly reduced the average specific growth rate of the microalgae. Therefore, this mixture was more toxic to T. chuii than its components individually. Overall, the results of the present study indicated that the MP and AuNP tested have a relatively low toxicity to T. chuii, but the toxicity increases when they are in mixtures containing high concentrations of both substances. These proof-of-concept findings stress the need of more research on the toxicity of mixtures containing microplastics and nanomaterials.