Toxicokinetics of silver nanoparticles in the mealworm Tenebrio molitor exposed via soil or food

Zahra Khodaparast, Cornelis A M van Gestel, Anastasios G Papadiamantis, Sandra F Gonçalves, Iseult Lynch, Susana Loureiro

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Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) may reach the soil compartment via sewage sludge or nanoagrochemical applications. Understanding how NPs interact with biological systems is crucial for an accurate hazard assessment. Therefore, this study aimed at determining the Ag toxicokinetics in the mealworm Tenebrio molitor, exposed via Lufa 2.2 soil or via food to different Ag forms (uncoated 50 nm AgNPs, paraffin coated 3-8 nm and PVP-stabilised 60 nm, Ag2S NPs 20 nm, and ionic Ag). Mealworms were exposed for 21 days followed by a 21-day elimination phase (clean soil/food). A one-compartment kinetics model with inert fraction (simulating a storage compartment, where detoxified forms are located) was used to describe Ag accumulation. Fully understanding the uptake route in mealworms is difficult. For that reason several approaches were used, showing that food, soil and pore water all are valid uptake routes, but with different importance. Silver taken up from soil pore water or from soil showed to be related to Ag dissolution in soil pore water. In general, the uptake and elimination rate constants were similar for 3-8 nm and 60 nm AgNPs and for AgNO3, but significantly different for the uncoated 50 nm AgNPs. Upon food exposure, uptake rate constants were similar for 50 nm AgNPs and AgNO3, while those for 60 nm and 3-8 nm AgNPs and for Ag2S NPs also grouped together. NP exposure in soil appeared more difficult to characterize, with different patterns obtained for the different NPs. But it was evident that upon soil or food exposure, particle characteristics highly affected Ag bioavailability and bioaccumulation. Although Ag2S NPs were taken up, their elimination was faster than for other Ag forms, showing the lowest inert fraction. The significantly different elimination rate constants suggest that the mechanism of elimination may not be the same for different AgNPs either.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146071
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date26 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2021


  • Ag dissolution
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Bioavailability
  • Exposure route
  • Silver sulfide nanoparticles


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