Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes at Environmentally Relevant Concentrations Affect the Composition of Benthic Communities

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To date, chronic effect studies with manufactured nanomaterials under field conditions are scarce. Here, we report in situ effects of 0, 0.002, 0.02, 0.2, and 2 g/kg multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) in sediment on the benthic community composition after 15 months of exposure. Effects observed after 15 months were compared to those observed after 3 months and to community effects of another carbonaceous material (activated carbon; AC), which was simultaneously tested in a parallel study. Redundancy analysis with variance partitioning revealed a total explained variance of 51.7% of the variation in community composition after 15 months, of which MWCNT dose explained a statistically significant 9.9%. By stepwise excluding the highest MWCNT concentrations in the statistical analyses, MWCNT effects were shown to be statistically significant already at the lowest dose investigated, which can be considered environmentally relevant. We conclude that despite prolonged aging, encapsulation, and burial, MWCNTs can affect the structure of natural benthic communities in the field. This effect was similar to that of AC observed in a parallel experiment, which however was applied at a 50 times higher maximum dose. This suggests that the benthic community was more sensitive to MWCNTs than to the bulk carbon material AC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7475-7482
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • macroinvertebrate community
  • manufactured nanoparticles
  • engineered nanomaterials
  • contaminated sediments
  • aquatic sediments
  • black carbon
  • long-term
  • toxicity
  • bioavailability
  • ecotoxicology

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