Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 6, 2015
Previous Article Next Article

Toxicity of 12 metal-based nanoparticles to algae, bacteria and protozoa

Author affiliations


The use of metal-based nanoparticles (NPs) is increasing which leads to their release in water bodies via various waste streams, and thus warrants risk assessment. Consistent biological-effect data of NPs for environmentally relevant test species, which are accompanied by thorough characterization of NPs, are scarce but indispensable for understanding the possible risks of NPs. We composed and tested a library of 12 metal-based nanoparticles (Al2O3, Co3O4, CuO, Fe3O4, MgO, Mn3O4, Sb2O3, SiO2, ZnO, TiO2, WO3 and Pd) using the alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, three bacterial species (Vibrio fischeri, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus) and the protozoa Tetrahymena thermophila. The NPs were characterized for their physico-chemical properties, solubility and abiotic reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Also, respective soluble salts were analysed for toxic effects. The algal growth inhibition assay has proven to be the most sensitive and yielded EC50 values for 10 NPs ranging from 0.1 to 58 mg l−1. Algal toxicity correlated with abiotic ROS production of NPs, and the majority of the NPs formed agglomerates that entrapped algal cells. Despite the different sensitivities, there was a common trend in the toxicity of the NPs across different species and test formats: CuO and ZnO had the highest toxicity (EC50 values below 1 mg l−1) among all organism groups except for the protozoa. The high toxicity was mostly due to the shedding of toxic concentrations of Zn and Cu ions; for most of the test species, Al2O3, SiO2, WO3 and Sb2O3 were not toxic below 100 mg l−1 and MgO showed no adverse effects below 100 mg l−1 to any test species in any test setting.

Graphical abstract: Toxicity of 12 metal-based nanoparticles to algae, bacteria and protozoa

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 30 Mar 2015, accepted on 02 Aug 2015 and first published on 04 Aug 2015

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C5EN00057B
Author version
Download author version (PDF)
Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2015,2, 630-644

  •   Request permissions

    Toxicity of 12 metal-based nanoparticles to algae, bacteria and protozoa

    V. Aruoja, S. Pokhrel, M. Sihtmäe, M. Mortimer, L. Mädler and A. Kahru, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2015, 2, 630
    DOI: 10.1039/C5EN00057B

Search articles by author