Silver nanoparticle toxicity to Daphnia magna is a function of dissolved silver concentration


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The most persistent question regarding the toxicity of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) is whether this toxicity is due to the nanoparticles themselves or the silver ions (Ag+) they release. The present study investigates the role of surface coating and the presence of dissolved organic carbon on the toxicity of AgNPs to Daphnia magna and tests the hypothesis that the acute toxicity of AgNPs is a function of dissolved Ag produced by nanoparticle dissolution. Toxicity of silver nitrate (AgNO3) and AgNPs with surface coatings—gum arabic (AgGA), polyethylene glycol (AgPEG), and polyvinylpyrrolidone (AgPVP)—at 48 h was assessed in US Environmental Protection Agency moderately hard reconstituted water alone and augmented with Suwannee River dissolved organic carbon (DOC). As expected, AgNO3 was the most toxic to D. magna and AgPVPs were the least toxic. In general, Suwannee River DOC presence reduced the toxicity of AgNO3, AgGAs, and AgPEG, while the toxicity of AgPVPs was unaffected. The measured dissolved Ag concentrations for all AgNPs and AgNO3 at the 48-h median lethal concentration in moderately hard reconstituted water were similar. The presence of Suwannee River DOC decreased the ratio of measured dissolved Ag to measured total Ag concentration. These results support the hypothesis that toxicity of AgNPs to D. magna is a function of dissolved Ag concentration from these particles. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2356–2364. © 2013 SETAC