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Nanosilver from clothing can cause major environmental problems

News: Oct 26, 2012

Nanoparticles of silver can cause serious environmental effects if the use of it in clothing continues to increase. If everyone buys a silver coated sock per year, the silver content in sewage sludge will double. If the sludge is then used as fertilizer the silver can cause long term damage to the soil, shows a study by the Nanosphere-affiliated Chalmers researcher Rickard Arvidsson.

Rickard Arvidsson recently presented his doctoral thesis, about the risks of nanomaterials - an area where there are large gaps in knowledge. He has developed new methods for assessing the risks of nanomaterials. He has also used these methods on three specific materials, nanoparticles of silver, titanium dioxide (which is found in sunscreen) and graphene.

Nanoparticles of silver have a bactericidal effect, and is currently used in various consumer products. Among other things, to prevent sweat odors in workout clothes. When clothes are washed nanoparticles come loose and comply with wastewater to treatment plants. The particles emit silver ions, which are neither degraded in sewage treatment plants or in nature. The silver ions are toxic to many organisms.

- Clothing are today considered to be a major source of emissions of nanosilver, says Rickard Arvidsson. If the use of silver in clothing continues to increase, it could have major environmental impacts. Among other things, the silver would accumulate on the fields of sludge from wastewater treatment plants is used as fertilizer, which can cause long term damage to cropland ecosystems.

Text: Chalmers Press
Photo: Oscar Mattsson

Read the thesis >>

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