Persistence of copper-based nanoparticle-containing foliar sprays in Lactuca sativa (lettuce) characterized by spICP-MS

  • Stephanie Laughton
  • Adam Laycock
  • Frank von der Kammer
  • Thilo Hofmann
  • Elizabeth A. Casman
  • Sónia M. Rodrigues
  • Gregory V. LowryEmail author
Research Paper


Copper oxide and hydroxide nanoparticles (Cu-NPs) are components of some commercial pesticides. When these Cu-NPs dissolve in the environment, their size distribution, efficacy, and toxicity are altered. Since acute toxicity screens typically involve pristine NPs, quantification of the transformation of their size distribution in edible leaf vegetables is necessary for accurate consumer risk assessment. Single particle ICP-MS was used to investigate the persistence of three forms of Cu-NPs following foliar application to live lettuce (Lactuca sativa): CuO NP, Cu(OH)2 NP, and Kocide 3000®. A methanol-based digestion method was used to minimize Cu-NP dissolution during extraction from the leaf tissues. After dosing, the NPs associated with the leaf tissues were characterized over a 9-day period to monitor persistence. Nanoparticle counts and total copper mass concentrations remained constant, though the particle size distributions shifted down over time. Washing the leaves in tap water resulted in removal of total copper while the number of Cu-NPs remaining depended on the form applied. This work indicates that washing of lettuce preferentially removed dissolved Cu over Cu-NPs, and that the amount of residual Cu-NPs remaining is low when applied at the recommended rates for Kocide 3000®.


Nanoparticle fate Copper nanoparticle Nano-enabled agrochemicals Lettuce Nanoparticle transformation Single particle ICP-MS Environmental issues 


Funding information

This material is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under NSF Cooperative Agreement EF-1266252, Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), from the NSF Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Nanotechnology Environmental Effects and Policy (IGERT-NEEP) (DGE-0966227), and CBET-1530563 (NanoFARM). This study was financially supported by Austrian FFG in the framework of the ERA-NET SIINN project 849880 (NanoFarm). Thanks are also due for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017-POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007638), to Portuguese FCT/MCTES through national funds (PIDDAC), and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020 (project references in Portugal: SIINN/0001/2014 (NanoFarm) and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016749 and PTDC/AGR-PRO/6262/2014 (NanoFertil)). S. M. Rodrigues acknowledges the financial support from FCT (Project IF/01637/2013).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11051_2019_4620_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.6 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 2629 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Center for Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT)Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental GeosciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  4. 4.Department of Engineering and Public PolicyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.Department of Chemistry & Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM)Universidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal

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