US researchers evaluating the aquatic toxicity of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have compared the environmental impact resulting from the synthesis of the material to the ecotoxicity of nanotubes releases into the environment, concluding that in a realistic release scenario the impact of the synthesis of the materials is significantly greater.
The scientists, based in Boston, Massachusetts, used a model called USEtox that integrates fate, transport and toxicity to evaluate the impacts of non-CNT emissions from three methods of synthesis and compares these to the modelled ecotoxicity of CNTs released to the environment in three different scenarios of magnitude.
They found that the ecotoxicity impacts of nanomaterial production processes are equivalent to the ecotoxicity of CNT releases under the unrealistic worst case scenario, but exceeded the results of the realistic scenario by three orders of magnitude.
The researchers highlight the importance of life cycle considerations in allocating time and resources toward research on mitigating the impacts of novel materials. Their study is published in Environmental Science and Technology.