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Species Sensitivity Distributions for Engineered Nanomaterials


Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are a relatively new strain of materials for which little is understood about their impacts. A species sensitivity distribution (SSDs) is a cumulative probability distribution of a chemical's toxicity measurements obtained from single-species bioassays of various species that can be used to estimate the ecotoxicological impacts of a chemical. The recent increase in the availability of acute toxicity data for ENMs enabled the construction of 10 ENM-specific SSDs, with which we analyzed (1) the range of toxic concentrations, (2) whether ENMs cause greater hazard to an ecosystem than the ionic or bulk form, and (3) the key parameters that affect variability in toxicity. The resulting estimates for hazardous concentrations at which 5% of species will be harmed ranged from <1 ug/L for PVP-coated n-Ag to >3.5 mg/L for CNTs. The results indicated that size, formulation, and the presence of a coating can alter toxicity, and thereby corresponding SSDs. Few statistical differences were observed between SSDs of an ENM and its ionic counterpart. However, we did find a significant correlation between the solubility of ENMs and corresponding SSD. Uncertainty in SSD values can be reduced through greater consideration of ENM characteristics and physiochemical transformations in the environment.

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