California Teen Wins Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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California Teen Wins Stockholm Junior Water Prize

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 20, 2008 (ENS) - For discovering the potential toxicity of silver nanoparticles, a high school student from the United States was awarded the prestigious 2008 Stockholm Junior Water Prize Tuesday evening in a formal ceremony in the Stockholm during World Water Week.

Joyce Chai, a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, California, received the prize from the hands of Crown Princess Victoria on behalf of the Stockholm Water Foundation. She also received a US$ 5,000 scholarship and a crystal sculpture.

Chai's project entitled "Modelling the Toxic Effects of Silver Nanoparticles under Varying Environmental Conditions" won the 2008 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for exploring this new category of micropollutants, now used in industry for a variety of purposes.

Silver nanoparticles, known for their ability to fight bacteria, are incorporated into items such as bandages, clothing, cosmetics, car wax, and toys.

When these items are laundered or discarded, silver nanoparticles are released into the environment, including water bodies, with little knowledge of their fate and potential toxicity.

Chai's scientific research takes steps towards understanding and quantifying the potential environmental consequences and risks of using silver nanoparticles.

This study repudiates the assertion that silver nanoparticles are more reliable and less environmentally hazardous than silver ions. The research questions the reliability of their use in consumer products.

Said the Stockholm Junior Water Prize Nominating Committee, "The scientific impact of this investigation is extremely profound, and we expect that it will open the door to serious questioning and further studies regarding the widespread use of silver nanoparticles."

In May, a coalition of U.S. consumer, health, and environmental groups filed a legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that the agency use its authority to regulate pesticides to stop the sale of more than 260 consumer products using silver nanoparticles.

The legal action is the first challenge to EPA's failure to regulate nanomaterials, which are made up of microscopic particles.

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is presented each year to high-school age students for outstanding water-related projects that focus on topics of environmental, scientific, social or technological importance.

The international honor is given to an individual or group who, like their 30 co-competitors, has been awarded the top prize in national competitions. The national country winners travel to Stockholm from as far as Argentina, Ghana and Vietnam.

The projects "Restoration of Water Reservoirs Using Latent Phases of Aquatic Organisms, from Russia's Alexey Shinkarev won honorable mention as did "Firewood Hearth Distillers for Safe Water for Vulnerable Rural Populations" from a Sri Lankan team.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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