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Contaminated nanoplastics from the marine environment: physical and chemical properties, in vivo toxicity and separation using a magnetic biochar

Grant number: 23/05326-3
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2023
Effective date (End): November 30, 2025
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Chemistry
Principal Investigator:Ernesto Chaves Pereira de Souza
Grantee:Greici Gubert
Host Institution: Centro de Ciências Exatas e de Tecnologia (CCET). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:13/07296-2 - CDMF - Center for the Development of Functional Materials, AP.CEPID


This research project aims to study nanoplastics, submicrometer polymeric environmental contaminants that are detected in various biological and environmental samples. The presence of hazardous pollutants adsorbed on the surface of nanoplastics potentiates molecular changes in living organisms and their harmful effects when dispersed in the environment. In addition, nanoplastics significantly reduce water quality as they are difficult to remove in municipal treatment networks. Therefore, it is essential to characterize and prepare nanoplastics from samples collected from the environment, as well as to evaluate their in vivo toxicity. This study proposes a characterization and preparation of nanoplastics from plastic samples collected on the Brazilian coast, as well as evaluating the toxicity of these nanoplastics in the experimental model Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a free-living nematode. The research will also generate important data on possible contaminants adsorbed on collected plastics, as well as identifying the structural and degradation conditions of these materials. Even more importantly, the synthesis of a magnetic biochar from vegetable charcoal and hematite nanoparticles by co-precipitation will be performed to evaluate the efficiency of removing nanoplastics and their adsorbed pollutants. It is worth noting that C. elegans is sensitive to a wide range of substances, including heavy metals and pesticides, making it an ideal model for evaluating the toxicity of nanoplastics and the efficacy of magnetic biochar in removing these environmental contaminants. This research is of utmost importance for solving this serious environmental problem as it will contribute to understanding the toxicity of nanoplastics and their removal, promoting environmental sustainability and human health. After all, nanoplastics are present in seafood and even in human blood, demonstrating the severity of the problem and the urgent need for effective solutions. (AU)

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