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Study Shows Nanoparticles Biomagnifying in Food Chain

The normal protozoan on the left has been fed untreated bacteria, while the one on the right was fed bacteria containing “quantum dot” nanoparticles; the dots accumulate, undigested, in the protozoan predator.

Image: University of California at Santa Barbara
A recent University of California at Santa Barbara study, published in

Nature Nanotechnology, found that nanoparticles introduced into a microbial food chain can biomagnify. The latest research, sparked by a previous study showing that nanoparticles can accumulate in certain bacteria, demonstrates how predators of those bacteria are affected by accumulated nanoparticles. Predators in the study suffered toxic effects, including inhibited digestion, from nanoparticle accumulation. The study, partially funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program supporting graduate research, is the first observation of biomagnification of nanoparticles in an aquatic environment with microscopic organisms—the base of the food chain. Researchers found nanoparticles successfully moved up the microbial food chain with little degradation and increased concentration—indicating that the nanoparticles were biomagnified. Though more research is needed, nanoparticles could potentially travel further up the food chain—particularly in aquatic environments—where they may pose environmental consequences. The study is available at

Published January 27, 2011

Emily, C. (2011, January 27). Study Shows Nanoparticles Biomagnifying in Food Chain. Retrieved from

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