For water sterilization, a highly effective system utilizing electrophoresis and the antimicrobial properties of Ag/ZnO nanomaterials has been developed. However, the key component of this system, a sterilization carbon cloth containing Ag/ZnO nanomaterials, has not been evaluated with respect to the potential environmental and human health risks associated with the nanomaterials released. In this paper, a recirculation flow system and methodology were developed to study the release of Ag and ZnO during water treatment. Our study showed that the released silver nanoparticles and dissolved Ag from the carbon cloth were 50 µg/L and 143 µg/L in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) medium, respectively. The release of dissolved Zn in the EPA medium was 33 µg /L. The results indicate that the release of dissolved and nanoparticulate silver from the sterilization carbon cloth exceeded acceptable risk levels in the aquatic environment. However, if the sterilization carbon cloth was pre-washed two days prior to use, the concentration of Ag was below the drinking water limit of 0.1 mg/L. Our study provides important exposure data for a novel water sanitation technology for real-world application in waste water and drinking water treatment, and aid in assuring its safe use.
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