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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions

The Release of Nanosilver from Consumer Products Used in the Home


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 6, p. 1875-1882
    Received: Sept 12, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): Troy.Benn@asu.edu
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  1. Troy Benn *a,
  2. Bridget Cavanagha,
  3. Kiril Hristovskib,
  4. Jonathan D. Posnerc and
  5. Paul Westerhoffa
  1. a School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State Univ., PO Box 875306, Tempe, AZ 85287-5306
    b College of Technology and Innovation, Arizona State Univ.-Polytechnic Campus, 6073 S. Backus Mall, Mesa, AZ 85212
    c Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Programs, Arizona State Univ., P.O. Box 876106, Tempe, AZ 85287-6106. Assigned to Associate Editor Joel Pedersen


Nanosilver has become one of the most widely used nanomaterials in consumer products because of its antimicrobial properties. Public concern over the potential adverse effects of nanosilver's environmental release has prompted discussion of federal regulation. In this paper, we assess several classes of consumer products for their silver content and potential to release nanosilver into water, air, or soil. Silver was quantified in a shirt, a medical mask and cloth, toothpaste, shampoo, detergent, a towel, a toy teddy bear, and two humidifiers. Silver concentrations ranged from 1.4 to 270,000 μg Ag g product−1 Products were washed in 500 mL of tap water to assess the potential release of silver into aqueous environmental matrices (wastewater, surface water, saliva, etc.). Silver was released in quantities up to 45 μg Ag g product−1, and size fractions were both larger and smaller than 100 nm. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed the presence of nanoparticle silver in most products as well as in the wash water samples. Four products were subjected to a toxicity characterization leaching procedure to assess the release of silver in a landfill. The medical cloth released an amount of silver comparable to the toxicity characterization limit. This paper presents methodologies that can be used to quantify and characterize silver and other nanomaterials in consumer products. The quantities of silver in consumer products can in turn be used to estimate real-world human and environmental exposure levels.

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