Nanomaterials in the environment: Behavior, fate, bioavailability, and effects—An updated review

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

, , , ORCID iD , , , , and



This review covers developments in studies of nanomaterials (NMs) in the environment, since the much‐cited review of Klaine et al. (2008). It discusses novel insights on fate and behavior, metrology, transformations, bioavailability, toxicity mechanisms and environmental impacts, with a focus on terrestrial and aquatic systems. Overall the findings were that: i) despite the substantial developments, there remain critical gaps, in large part due to the lack of analytical, modelling and field capabilities and in part due to the breadth and complexity of the area; ii) a key knowledge gap is the lack of data on environmental concentrations and dosimetry generally; iii) there is substantial evidence that there are nano‐specific effects (different from both ions and larger particles) in the environment in terms of fate, bioavailability and toxicity, but this is not consistent for all NMs, species and all relevant processes; iv) a paradigm is emerging that NMs are less toxic than equivalent dissolved materials but more toxic than the corresponding bulk materials; v) translation of incompletely understood science into regulation and policy continues to be challenging. There is a developing consensus that NMs may pose a relatively low environmental risk, however, with the uncertainty and lack of data in many areas, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn. In addition, this emerging consensus will likely change rapidly with qualitative changes in the technology and increased future discharges. 

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Nanomaterials in the environment: Behavior, fate, bioavailability, and effects—An updated review
Series title:
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Online First
Year Published:
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Contributing office(s):
National Research Program - Western Branch