About this Research Topic
The increased usage and unprecedented release rates of anthropogenic particles into the environment, made from a plethora of materials and originating from various sources, is a specific feature of the Anthropocene. Both the short- and long-term behavior and fate of these particles will depend on their interplay with different environmental matrices over time. Therefore, understanding the biogeochemistry of these man-made particles remains one of the major challenges of modern environmental sciences, even after decades of study.
Accelerated industrialization and advances in technology have had wide reaching effects producing particles which can range from incidental by-products of production and combustion processes (e.g. soot, street dust), to those which are intentionally produced for targeted applications (e.g. TiO2 in cosmetics, nano-fertilizers) or generated by the breakdown of larger products over time (e.g. microplastics). Released either intentionally or unintentionally, their occurrence in the environment is continuous, although assessing the risks of this diverse group of materials is often cumbersome as scientists grapple with (i) differentiating natural proxies from engineered counterparts, (ii) balancing positive benefits with potential environmental harm (including safer-by-design principles) and (iii) assessing which, if any, mitigation strategies would prove useful and effective. Regardless of the origin, particles can play a special role in environmental systems and behave fundamentally different in terms of fate, transport, and biological interactions than dissolved chemicals or bulk materials. Therefore, understanding the biogeochemistry of these smallest of man-made materials is crucial in assessing all the ways in which humanity is continuously changing our environment: either for good or for ill.
This Research Topic in Frontiers in Environmental Science will provide a comprehensive perspective on the biogeochemical-cycle of anthropogenic particles in the environment with an emphasis on nano- and microscale materials. By anthropogenic particles, we mean all types of particles, manufactured or generated incidentally including through the degradation of synthetic materials and disseminated in(to) the environment by Man. The aims are thus to explore the state of knowledge, including major advances and challenges, with regards of the sources, occurrence, transformations, and transport of particles, as well as the interactive effects between particles and their environment including living systems. We wish to bring together research papers and reviews on anthropogenic particles, regardless of their origin and nature. This integrative approach should help to draw parallels between the knowledge already acquired regardless of the type of particles, and thus to bridge these different investigation axes to fertilize the research area dedicated to particulate matter.
We particularly welcome contributions concerning:
(i) Sources, occurrence and flows of anthropogenic particles
(ii) Distribution and transformation of anthropogenic particles in the environment
(iii) Interactions of anthropogenic particles with living systems
(iv) Interactions of biogeochemical cycles of anthropogenic particles with those of nutrients, trace elements and organic contaminants
(v) Methodological advances to detect identify and quantify anthropogenic particles in environmental and living systems
All article types are welcome, with an emphasis on Original Research, Reviews and Perspectives.
Keywords: engineered nanomaterials, nano- and micro-residues, plastics, synthetic materials, fate, distribution, effects, safer-by-design
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.