Acute waterborne and chronic sediment toxicity of silver and titanium dioxide nanomaterials towards the oligochaete, Lumbriculus variegatus

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The use of silver (Ag) and titanium dioxide (TiO 2) nanomaterials (NMs) in industrial processes and consumer products has experienced considerable growth since the late 20th century. Throughout their lifecycle, both Ag NM and TiO 2NM are released into the environment, with benthic systems anticipated to be the final sink. Their potential toxicity towards benthic species is therefore of major concern. This study investigated the toxicity of silver (Ag; NM-300 K) and titanium dioxide (TiO 2; NM-104) NMs to the freshwater oligochaete, Lumbriculus variegatus in acute (0–96-h) waterborne and chronic (28-d) sediment studies. Toxicity was investigated via assessment of mortality, behaviour, and antioxidant enzyme activity. The 96-h LC 50 for Ag NMs in water was 0.51 mg/l (95% CI, 0.45–0.56), with L. variegatus displaying inhibited predation-avoidance behaviour compared to controls (6.66 ± 10%) successful response at 24-h), as well as significant increases (p < 0.05) in catalase (CAT) activity at sub-lethal concentrations at 24-h. Behavioural improvement and the return of antioxidant enzymes to control levels was observed after 48 and 72-h. AgNO 3 exposure proved more toxic than Ag NM (96-h LC 50 = 0.034 mg/l, 95% CI, 0.031–0.037) but resulted in no changes to antioxidant enzymes following sub-lethal exposure. Furthermore, Ag dissolution from Ag NM (~2–4%) could not account for the full extent of toxicity observed, suggesting a nano-specific effect. Increased environmental relevance via the inclusion of Suwannee River Humic Acid (SRHA, 5 mg/l) alleviated sub-lethal Ag NM toxicity despite a comparable 96-h LC 50 (0.54 mg/l, 95% CI, 0.51–0.57). Significant effects of Ag NMs in formulated sediments (mortality, biomass) were only recorded according to OECD 225 at the highest test concentration (1333 mg/kg) for Ag NM indicating a potential attenuating effect of sediments towards toxicity. No toxicity was observed for TiO 2 NM in aquatic or sediment exposures up to concentrations of 2000 mg/l and 1333 mg/kg, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100291
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Lumbriculus variegatus
  • Nanomaterial
  • Sediment
  • Silver (NM-300 K)
  • Titanium dioxide (NM-104)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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