Changing Australian soil conditions are exposing crops to silver nanoparticles, which are widely used in household products, a study led by The University of Queensland has found.
Study author and senior lecturer in soil science Dr Peter Kopittke from the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences said silver nanoparticles generally pose a low risk to agricultural food production, however testing in certain soil conditions led to an “unexpected” finding.
“The risk posed by silver nanoparticles increases substantially in saline soils and in soils irrigated with poor-quality water,” Dr Kopittke said.
Dr Kopittke said that due to their antimicrobial properties, silver nanoparticles were used in products ranging from detergents, textiles and home appliances, to socks, toothpastes, air filters, and nutritional supplements.
“The environmental safety of nanoparticles remains a topic of high public interest,” he said.
Of particular concern is whether the nanoparticles can move from agricultural soils into plants and food.
“It’s known that most silver nanoparticles eventually accumulate in biosolids at wastewater treatment plants, with most of these biosolids then applied to agricultural soils.
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