Human and environmental impacts of nanoparticles: a scoping review of the current literature

Elizabeth Adjoa Kumah, Raoul Djou Fopa, Saeed Harati, Paul Boadu, Fatemeh Vida Zohoori, Tannaz Pak

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Use of nanoparticles have established benefits in a wide range of applications, however, the effects of exposure to nanoparticles on health and the environmental risks associated with the production and use of nanoparticles are less well-established. The present study addresses this gap in knowledge by examining, through a scoping review of the current literature, the effects of nanoparticles on human health and the environment. We searched relevant databases including Medline, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, and SAGE journals, as well as Google, Google Scholar, and grey literature from June 2021 to July 2021. After removing duplicate articles, the title and abstracts of 1495 articles were first screened followed by the full-texts of 249 studies, and this resulted in the inclusion of 117 studies in the presented review.

In this contribution we conclude that while nanoparticles offer distinct benefits in a range of applications, they pose significant threats to humans and the environment. Using several biological models and biomarkers, the included studies revealed the toxic effects of nanoparticles (mainly zinc oxide, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, silver, and carbon nanotubes) to include cell death, production of oxidative stress, DNA damage, apoptosis, and induction of inflammatory responses. Most of the included studies (65.81%) investigated inorganic-based nanoparticles. In terms of biomarkers, most studies (76.9%) used immortalised cell lines, whiles 18.8% used primary cells as the biomarker for assessing human health effect of nanoparticles. Biomarkers that were used for assessing environmental impact of nanoparticles included soil samples and soybean seeds, zebrafish larvae, fish, and Daphnia magna neonates.

From the studies included in this work the United States recorded the highest number of publications (n = 30, 25.64%), followed by China, India, and Saudi Arabia recording the same number of publications (n = 8 each), with 95.75% of the studies published from the year 2009. The majority of the included studies (93.16%) assessed impact of nanoparticles on human health, and 95.7% used experimental study design. This shows a clear gap exists in examining the impact of nanoparticles on the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1059
Number of pages28
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2023


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