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Nano-Safety Research Group

Specialists in the assessment of nanomaterial toxicity to human health and the environment

Simon Little

simon picRapid growth in the field of nanotechnology is ever increasing the potential release of nanomaterials into the environment.  As the main recipient of industrial and domestic wastewaters, the fate and behaviour of nanomaterials (NMs) in aquatic systems has come under much scrutiny in recent years.  Sediment habitats in particular are anticipated to be the final sink for nanomaterials due to the processes of aggregation, agglomeration and sedimentation, however, little is known in terms of the effects on sediment fauna.

In order to address this gap in knowledge, my project will investigate the toxicity of two reference nanomaterials; silver (AgNM) and titanium dioxide (TiO2NM) in relation to the freshwater sediment ingesting oligocheate,Lumbriculus variegatus. Both AgNM and TiO2NM are present in a number of commercially available products, including; paint, clothing, footwear (AgNM), sunscreen, plastics and cosmetics (TiO2NM), hence their selection for this project.

Using a number of biomarkers, this project aims to investigate the toxicity of both nanomaterials in sediment and aqueous exposures, whilst also considering the influence of abiotic factors, (pH, and natural organic matter).  Multiple assays are used to assess modes of toxicity, including the formation of reactive oxygen species, the activity of antioxidant enzymes (catalase and superoxide dismutase) and lipid peroxidation, ultimately leading to cell damage.


Prof Teresa Fernandes (School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University)

Dr Helinor Johnston (School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University)



FP7 funded project MARINA


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