Airdate: Jan 30, 2018
Scientist: Christine Ogilvie Hendren
Contaminants can increase in their concentration as they move up the food chain.
Nanoparticles tiny bits of matter, are now fairly common in drugs, cosmetics, clothing and many products. Scientists are trying to find out what the effects of nanoparticles might be once they're released into our water supply and the environment. For example, what happens when a nanoparticle finds its way into a plant or animal. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Hendren: We have learned, for example, with nanosilver particles that these particles if eaten by or taken into a certain roundworm can be transferred to the offspring of a mother roundworm.
Christine Ogilvie Hendren is the Executive Director of the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology at Duke University.
Hendren: We see them go from the mother to the developing embryo. We've also demonstrated that these nanoparticles can be transferred between species in a food chain, which can lead in some cases to something called biomagnification.
Biomagnification is how a contaminant can increase in its concentration as you move up a food chain. If some creature at the bottom of the food chain has a little bit of silver nanoparticles, in some cases then the next animal up the food chain to eat that animal would have more, and then more when you get higher up. This is how we see a high concentration of some contaminants like mercury in a top predator in a food chain - for example, a large fish.
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