Phytotoxicity and uptake of nanoscale zero-valent iron (nZVI) by two plant species

Xingmao Ma, Arun Gurung, Yang Deng

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156 Scopus citations


Use of nano-scale zero valent iron (nZVI) for the treatment of various environmental pollutants has been proven successful. However, large scale introduction of engineered nanomaterials such as nZVI into the environment has recently attracted serious concerns. There is an urgent need to investigate the environmental fate and impact of nZVI due to the scope of its application. The goal of this study was to evaluate the toxicity and accumulation of bare nZVI by two commonly encountered plant species: cattail (Typha latifolia) and hybrid poplars (Populous deltoids× Populous nigra). Plant seedlings were grown hydroponically in a greenhouse and dosed with different concentrations of nZVI (0-1000 mg/L) for four weeks. The nZVI exhibited strong toxic effect on Typha at higher concentrations (> 200 mg/L) but enhanced plant growth at lower concentrations. nZVI also significantly reduced the transpiration and growth of hybrid poplars at higher concentrations. Microscopic images indicated that large amount of nZVI coated on plant root surface as irregular aggregates and some nZVI penetrated into several layers of epidermal cells. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) and scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) confirmed the internalization of nZVI by poplar root cells but similar internalization was not observed for Typha root cells. The upward transport to shoots was minimal for both plant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-849
Number of pages6
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 5 Jan 2013


  • NZVI
  • Phytotoxicity
  • Plant uptake


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