Toxicity profiling of water contextual zinc oxide, silver, and titanium dioxide nanoparticles in human oral and gastrointestinal cell systems



Engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) are increasingly detected in water supply due to environmental release of ENPs as the by-products contained within the effluent of domestic and industrial run-off. The partial recycling of water laden with ENPs, albeit at ultra-low concentrations, may pose an uncharacterized threat to human health. In this study, we investigated the toxicity of three prevalent ENPs: zinc oxide, silver, and titanium dioxide over a wide range of concentrations that encompasses drinking water-relevant concentrations, to cellular systems representing oral and gastrointestinal tissues. Based on published in silico-predicted water-relevant ENPs concentration range from 100 pg/L to 100 µg/L, we detected no cytotoxicity to all the cellular systems. Significant cytotoxicity due to the NPs set in around 100 mg/L with decreasing extent of toxicity from zinc oxide to silver to titanium dioxide NPs. We also found that noncytotoxic zinc oxide NPs level of 10 mg/L could elevate the intracellular oxidative stress. The threshold concentrations of NPs that induced cytotoxic effect are at least two to five orders of magnitude higher than the permissible concentrations of the respective metals and metal oxides in drinking water. Based on these findings, the current estimated levels of NPs in potable water pose little cytotoxic threat to the human oral and gastrointestinal systems within our experimental boundaries. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 30: 1459–1469, 2015.