Recent research by scientists at the University of Missouri in the USA has highlighted a potential hazard to human health from the increasing use of silver nanoparticles as a pesticide in agriculture.
The team, led by Associate Professor of Food Science Mengshi Lin, developed a number of different techniques to detect silver nanoparticles, including electron microscopy, energy dispersive spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry. These techniques were applied to pears treated with two different sizes of silver nanoparticles and then stored for varying times.
The results showed that the particles could be detected on the surface of the fruit after rinsing with water following four days of storage. Small particles with a diameter of 20nm were found to have penetrated the pear skin and pulp after four days and could be detected within the fruit.
The study’s authors point out that the growing use of silver nanoparticles in agriculture could cause higher levels to accumulate in some types of fresh produce. Since the toxicity of these particles is uncertain, it is possible that their presence in food could be a threat to human health.
The study is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and an abstract can be found here.