Marine Ecotox Focus group
Ilaria Corsi (Department of Environmental Sciences “G. Sarfatti”, University of Siena, Italy)
Valeria Matranga (Institute of Biomedicine and Molecular Immunology "A. Monroy", National Research Council, Palermo, Italy)
Specific contribution made by the NanoMarEco discussion group (Nanomaterials Marine Ecotoxicology)
Why Marine Ecotoxicology of Nanomaterials
Given the unique features of nanomaterials, there is a need for the development and implementation of appropriate and fit for purpose scientific approaches. This philosophy is based on the following:
(1) the marine environment is likely to be a sink for nanomaterials as it is for most man-made pollutants; it is therefore possible that certain nanomaterials may bio-accumulate and bio-magnify along the marine trophic chain, thus potentially affecting marine biological resources (wild and farmed);
(2) nanomaterials may be transferred to humans through diet by consumption of contaminated seafood products;
(3) nanomaterials may lead to a deterioration in marine environmental quality (coastal areas including natural and recreational interests) with social and economic repercussions.
(4) Some nanomaterials can, however, be used to reduce marine pollution, through selected applications, such as for instance through remediation by binding and removing specific contaminants.
Therefore, as the application of nanomaterials in science and technology grows, the need to understand their eco-toxicological impact on marine ecosystems becomes increasingly important. Nanomaterials are released directly or indirectly into the sea from certain products, such as sunscreens, which include inorganic UV-filter as TiO2 nanoparticles and other compounds such as magnesium, silica, alumina, zinc and zirconium, inert coatings whose lifetime together with the n-TiO2 itself is still unknown; from sewage, on which there is still much lack of information in terms of how nanomaterials may interfere with the treatment process and/or be removed in waste water sludge; and in the most recent biofouling applications, bearing in mind what we learned from the tribultyltin story. Then, once in the marine environment, the extent to which they interact with both abiotic and biotic factors is unknown. Nevertheless the progress in the development of nanotechnologies and nano-enabled products is vast and continuously progressing. From some of the results obtained to date, and the paucity of information and data pertaining to the marine environment it is possible that the intentional and unintentional release of nanomaterials may pose serious risks for both wildlife and humans. Data on nano-product life cycles are thus needed as well as data on their release from nano-products into the environment. So, there is a new challenge on the horizon: marine ecosystem sustainability is becoming a research priority given the potential accidental release of nanomaterials from the chemical and/or mechanical degradation, as well as leaking of/from of nano- or composite- materials where nanomaterials are present. These materials may then end up in marine waters but they may also become carriers of other chemical compounds including pollutants present in the environment. Linking ecotoxicologists, environmental and analytical chemists, biochemists and molecular biologists, industries and final users (public) will provide the proper scenario suitable for an overall risk assessment of nanomaterials in the marine environment so that appropriate support for decision makers is available.