The use of engineered nanoparticles in consumer and industrial products has significantly increased in the last decade because they enhance the performance and functionality of various products. During the lifetime of the products and/or upon final disposal, nanoparticles may be released to the environment. As well, nanoparticles are often deliberately released into the environment for environmental remediation, oil and gas extraction and agriculture. There is significant debate evolving about the need for effective policies to address any potential for negative impacts of nanoparticles released to the environment. In this presentation, some of the major scientific knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to have an informed debate on nanoparticle environmental exposure risks will be discussed. Examples of scientific advances being made towards the detection and characterization of nanoparticles in the environment will be presented. In particular, single-particle mode ICP-MS is a relatively new technique that allows simultaneous detection of low concentrations of metal ENPs, the concentrations of dissolved metals and the size distributions of the metal ENPs, will be discussed. Applications of this analytical technique in a number of different projects in our laboratory will be discussed. These include determining the size distributions and concentrations of silver and copper nanoparticles in municipal wastewater treatment plant sludge and biosolids; characterizing the transformation of silver nanoparticles in municipal wastewater; and determining the translocation of silica/zinc nanoparticles in crop plants.
Subhasis Ghoshal is a Professor of Civil Engineering at McGill University and his teaching and research is in the area of Environmental Engineering. He is also the Director of McGill’s Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design.
Prof. Ghoshal has led several research projects on the use of biotechnology and nanotechnology for the environmental remediation of contaminated sites and aquifers. He has pioneered research on the development of reactive iron nanoparticles for degradation of chlorinated solvents in contaminated sites and industrial wastewaters. He also investigates environmental implications of nanomaterials released from consumer and industrial products. In particular, his laboratory is developing new methods for detecting nanomaterials in environmental samples, and this is being used to conduct the first survey of metal nanoparticle releases from municipal wastewater treatment plants in Canada.
In recognition of his research, he was appointed as a William Dawson Scholar at McGill from 2005-2015. He is the recipient of the 2016 and 2017 William and Rhea Seath Award in Engineering Innovation, and the 2020 Christophe Pierre Research Excellence Award at McGill. In 2010, he was appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Government of Canada, as a member of his advisory panel to evaluate the gaps in environmental monitoring of oil sands operations.