Nanomaterials in the environment, human exposure pathway, and health effects: A review

Arindam Malakar, Sushil R. Kanel, Chittaranjan Ray, Daniel D. Snow, Mallikarjuna N. Nadagouda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Nanomaterials (NMs), both natural and synthetic, are produced, transformed, and exported into our environment daily. Natural NMs annual flux to the environment is around 97% of the total and is significantly higher than synthetic NMs. However, synthetic NMs are considered to have a detrimental effect on the environment. The extensive usage of synthetic NMs in different fields, including chemical, engineering, electronics, and medicine, makes them susceptible to be discharged into the atmosphere, various water sources, soil, and landfill waste. As ever-larger quantities of NMs end up in our environment and start interacting with the biota, it is crucial to understand their behavior under various environmental conditions, their exposure pathway, and their health effects on human beings. This review paper comprises a large portion of the latest research on NMs and the environment. The article describes the natural and synthetic NMs, covering both incidental and engineered NMs and their behavior in the natural environment. The review includes a brief discussion on sampling strategies and various analytical tools to study NMs in complex environmental matrices. The interaction of NMs in natural environments and their pathway to human exposure has been summarized. The potential of NMs to impact human health has been elaborated. The nanotoxicological effect of NMs based on their inherent properties concerning to human health is also reviewed. The knowledge gaps and future research needs on NMs are reported. The findings in this paper will be a resource for researchers working on NMs all over the world to understand better the challenges associated with NMs in the natural environment and their human health effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number143470
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 10 2021


  • Environmental impact
  • Health effects
  • Human exposure
  • Nanomaterials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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