Harpenden researchers warn about toxic metals found in household goods
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Tiny metal particles increasingly used in sunscreens, cosmetics and clothes may be toxic to plants and soil microorganisms, researchers in Harpenden have warned.
A team of international scientists, including experts from Rothamsted Research, have found that treated sewage sludge containing nanoparticles – tiny man-made metal particles – pose a risk to the environment.
Nanoparticles of silver, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are being used more and more in common industrial and consumer products.
But there are fears they could end up in sewage treatment plants, where they are removed from wastewater and reside in sewage sludge as nanomaterials.
Professor Steve McGrath, head of Rothamsted’s department of sustainable soil and grassland systems, warned: “Manufactured nanoparticles containing metals are being increasingly released into the environment.”
Researchers have been examining, for the first time, the environmental effects after the tiny metal particles have been processed through full treatment works, and then mixed with soil.
Tests found that the treated sewage sludge containing nanomaterials had an impact on plants, which suffered stunted growth and took up far more zinc compared to sewage sludge containing typical forms of the metals.
- 1 Armed police seize machete from Sandpit Lane in St Albans
- 2 Rapist jailed for 15 years after kidnapping teen in Hemel Hempstead
- 3 Hertfordshire teen bullying victim given royal honour
- 4 Police probe into death of man in 20s at 'Kinky Towers' in Hertfordshire
- 5 Council confirms first monkeypox case in Hertfordshire
- 6 Peregrine falcon chick hatches at St Albans Cathedral in a city first
- 7 Every household in the UK to get £400 to help with rising energy bills
- 8 Clarence Park deckchairs banned following council concerns
- 9 5 things you might not have known about Herts county council's new chairman
- 10 Success for Harpenden actor after National Youth Theatre audition
The make-up of microbial communities in the soil was also changed.
During treatment of sewage, contaminants are removed from wastewater to produce clean wastewater.
But a by-product of such treatment is a semi-solid slurry, called sewage sludge, which undergoes further treatment before being spread on agricultural land.
For many decades this has been used successfully as a fertiliser, as it can provide much needed nutrients and organic matter to the soil.
However, until recently, manufactured nanomaterials have not been present in sewage sludge.