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Atmospheric particulate matter from an industrial area as a source of metal nanoparticle contamination in aquatic ecosystems

Souza, Iara da C.; Morozesk, Mariana; Mansano, Adrislaine S.; Mendes, Vitor A.S.; Azevedo, Vinicius C.; Matsumoto, Silvia T.; Elliott, Michael; Monferrán, Magdalena V.; Wunderlin, Daniel A.; Fernandes, Marisa N.


Iara da C. Souza

Mariana Morozesk

Adrislaine S. Mansano

Vitor A.S. Mendes

Vinicius C. Azevedo

Silvia T. Matsumoto

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Magdalena V. Monferrán

Daniel A. Wunderlin

Marisa N. Fernandes


Air pollution legislation and control worldwide is based on the size of particulate matter (PM) to evaluate the effects on environmental and human health, in which the small diameter particles are considered more dangerous than larger sizes. This study investigates the composition, stability, size and dispersion of atmospheric settleable particulate matter (SePM) in an aqueous system. We aimed to interrogate the changes in the physical properties and characteristics that can contribute to increased metal uptake by aquatic biota. Samples collected in an area influenced by the steel and iron industry were separated into 8 fractions (425 to ≤10 μm) and analysed physically and chemically. Results from ICP-MS and X-ray showed that the PM composition was mainly hematite with 80% of Fe, followed by Al, Mn and Ti. Among 27 elements analysed we found 19 metals, showing emerging metallic contaminants such as Y, Zr, Sn, La, Ba and Bi. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) showed that SePM fractions are formed by an agglomeration of nanoparticles. Furthermore, dynamic light scattering (DLS), zeta potential and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) demonstrated that SPM were dissociated in water, forming nanoparticles smaller than 200 nm, which can also contribute to water pollution. This study highlights that SePM contamination may be substantially higher than expected under that allowed in atmospheric regulatory frameworks, thereby extending their negative effect to water bodies upon settling, which is an underexplored area of our knowledge. We therefore provide important insights for future investigations on safety regulations involving SePM in the environment, indicating the need to revise the role of SePM, not solely associated with air pollution but also considering their deleterious effects on water resources.


Souza, I. D. C., Morozesk, M., Mansano, A. S., Mendes, V. A., Azevedo, V. C., Matsumoto, S. T., …Fernandes, M. N. (2021). Atmospheric particulate matter from an industrial area as a source of metal nanoparticle contamination in aquatic ecosystems. The Science of the total environment, 753, Article 141976.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 23, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 25, 2020
Publication Date Jan 20, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 13, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 26, 2021
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Electronic ISSN 1879-1026
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 753
Article Number 141976
Keywords Nanoparticle; Particulate matter; Air quality; Emergent metallic contaminants; Air safety regulations
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