Phytotoxicity of nanoparticles—problems with bioassay choosing and sample preparation
More and more often sewage sludges become the place of deposition of nanoparticles (NPs), the use of which in consumer products is increasing. In turn, the increasing amount of sewage sludges enforces the need for their utilization (e.g. through the application of sludges to the soil). Therefore, the presence of NPs in sewage sludges may create a new threat to the environment. Thus it becomes important to perform evaluation of the toxicity of sewage sludges in the context of their content of NPs. The objective of the study was to estimate the effect of nanoparticles of ZnO (nano-ZnO) and TiO2 (nano-TiO2) and their bulk counterparts (bZnO and bTiO2) on the toxicity of sewage sludges in relation to selected organisms (plants – Lepidium sativum and Sinapis alba, and microorganisms – Vibrio fischeri and 11 different strains from Microbial Assay for Risk Assessment – MARA). The study also involved the estimation of other factors that may have an effect on the phytotoxicity of NPs in sewage sludge: the size of the particles, the dose of the sewage sludge, the time of NP–sewage sludge contact and light conditions. The effect of both nano-ZnO and nano-TiO2 on the toxicity of the sludges is dependent on the kind of NPs and their concentration. Sludges containing NPs displayed a different level of toxicity from their bulk counterparts. All of the factors estimated (size of particles, dose of sludge, contact time and light conditions) had a significant effect on the phytotoxicity of NPs which was dependent both on the kind of the NPs and on that of the sewage sludge. Estimation of the leachate toxicity indicated a greater sensitivity of plants to the presence of NPs as compared to the sensitivity of microorganisms. Leachates caused a greater reduction of bioluminescence of V. fischeri in the presence of nano-TiO2 than nano-ZnO. Nano-ZnO caused a reduction of the toxicity of the sewage sludge leachates.