Most important results of the project
The “UMSICHT”-project aimed to better understand behaviour, fate and impact of silver nanoparticles in the environment. Dissolution behaviour, stability, transport and effects of differently made particles on living organisms in inshore waters and soils were investigated under different conditions. Standard procedures as well as optimized or new ones were applied or developed, respectively.
Silver nanoparticles in textiles were studied as an example for consumables – from particle synthesis, production of brins and fibre cloth via abrasion- and washing behaviour to the point of removal in the sewage treatment plant. It became clear that the way of textile fabrication determines whether and to what extent the particles reach the environment: next to nothing (best-case scenario) or almost all (worst-case scenario). As silver nanoparticles are not totally retained in the sewage treatment plant, a smallish part may reach inshore waters – the main part, however, will end up in the soil due to sewage sludge application in agriculture. The nanoparticles, respectively the silver dissolved from these, were highly toxic for almost all tested microbes and higher organisms. On the other hand, the quantities finally reaching the environment are comparatively low. As silver cannot be degraded, however, we cannot exclude that soil organisms will be harmed in the course of decades to centuries. This especially applies to residues from imported products, of which neither kind of fabrication, amount of silver contained, nor the production volume are known. The complexity of the product market proved to be the biggest handicap for reliable predictions.