This paper reviews the current understanding of the toxicity of selenium (Se) to terrestrial mammalian and aquatic organisms. Adverse biological effects occur in the case of Se deficiencies, associated with this element having essential biological functions and a narrow window between essentiality and toxicity. Several inorganic species of Se (-2, 0, +4, and +6) and organic species (monomethylated and dimethylated) have been reported in aquatic systems. The toxicity of Se in any given sample depends not only on its speciation and concentration, but also on the concomitant presence of other compounds that may have synergistic or antagonistic effects, affecting the target organism as well, usually spanning 2 or 3 orders of magnitude for inorganic Se species. In aquatic ecosystems, indirect toxic effects, linked to the trophic transfer of excess Se, are usually of much more concern than direct Se toxicity. Studies on the toxicity of selenium nanoparticles indicate the greater toxicity of chemically generated selenium nanoparticles relative to selenium oxyanions for fish and fish embryos while oxyanions of selenium have been found to be more highly toxic to rats as compared to nano-Se. Studies on polymer coated Cd/Se quantum dots suggest significant differences in toxicity of weathered vs. non-weathered QD's as well as a significant role for cadmium with respect to toxicity.
- Biological Selenium
- Quantum Dots