Nanoparticles are being used in more and more consumer products. They can make materials stronger and lighter and make surfaces cleaner and more wear-resistant. They are increasing the performance of road vehicles, and are increasingly used in medicine to increase the efficacy of medication.
As these products reach their end of life, it will be very difficult to prevent the release of nanoparticles into the environment. As the size of these particles allows them to interact strongly with biological structures, there are all sort of potential human and environmental health issues associated with the build up of nano-waste in ecosystems.
Studying Nanoparticles in the environment
Studies of real nanoparticle concentrations in the environment are few and far between. A Swiss study published in 2010 attempted to model the concentrations of some common types of nanoparticles which end up in the environment. Their results agreed with the limited real-world data which is available.
The study found that the destination of the nanoparticles depends on their usage