Transport of food- and catalytic-grade titanium dioxide nanoparticles in controlled field streams with varying streambed and biofilm conditions†
With the increased use of nanoparticles (NPs) in consumer, food, and pharmaceutical products, their eventual release into streams is inevitable. Critical factors affecting the transport of NPs in streams are the hyporheic exchange between the water column and porous streambed substrate and the interaction with biofilms. In this study, the transport behavior of two titanium dioxide NPs – catalytic- (P90) and food-grade (E171) – was evaluated in four field streams lined with different streambed substrate sizes for varying seasonal biofilm conditions. When biofilm growth was minimal, NP retention in the streams increased with increasing substrate size due to increased hyporheic exchange and subsequent physical and chemical interactions between the NPs and substrate. For all streams, the average mass recovery at the 40 m sampling point for E171 and P90 was 44 ± 8.7% and 16 ± 8.0%, respectively. The greater mobility of E171 was due to the inherent presence of negatively charged surface phosphates that reduced aggregation and decreased its interaction with the substrate. When biofilms were thriving in the streams the average mass recovery at 40 m for both NPs decreased significantly (E171 = 5.8 ± 7.3%, P = 0.0017; P90 = 2.4 ± 0.7%, P = 0.041), and the mass recovery difference between the two NPs became insignificant (P = 0.38).