Nanosized pollutants pose crop risks

Some harm crops or boost plants’ ability to pick up toxic materials through their roots

12:58pm, August 21, 2012

Nanoscale pollutants can enter crop roots, triggering a host of changes to plants’ growth and health, two studies find. These tiny particles can stunt plant growth, boost the plants’ absorption of pollutants, and increase the need for crop fertilizers.

Nanomaterials that get released in the exhaust from diesel-fueled tractors can rain down onto crop fields. Those used in fabrics, sunscreens and other products collect in the solids separated out of sewage and wastewater — nutrient-rich solids that are routinely spread on U.S. fields to improve soils. The new studies offer a glimpse at the toxic effects such nanoparticles may pose to future crops as exposures rise. 

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