A novel approach reveals that zinc oxide nanoparticles are bioavailable and toxic after dietary exposures

Nanotoxicology. 2011 Mar;5(1):79-90. doi: 10.3109/17435390.2010.501914. Epub 2010 Jul 15.


If engineered nanomaterials are released into the environment, some are likely to end up associated with the food of animals due to aggregation and sorption processes. However, few studies have considered dietary exposure of nanomaterials. Here we show that zinc (Zn) from isotopically modified (67)ZnO particles is efficiently assimilated by freshwater snails when ingested with food. The (67)Zn from nano-sized (67)ZnO appears as bioavailable as (67)Zn internalized by diatoms. Apparent agglomeration of the zinc oxide (ZnO) particles did not reduce bioavailability, nor preclude toxicity. In the diet, ZnO nanoparticles damage digestion: snails ate less, defecated less and inefficiently processed the ingested food when exposed to high concentrations of ZnO. It was not clear whether the toxicity was due to the high Zn dose achieved with nanoparticles or to the ZnO nanoparticles themselves. Further study of exposure from nanoparticles in food would greatly benefit assessment of ecological and human health risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Food Analysis
  • Lymnaea / drug effects
  • Lymnaea / metabolism
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Zinc / metabolism*
  • Zinc / toxicity


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Zinc