BackgroundSilver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are used extensively in various consumer products because of their antimicrobial potential. This requires insight in their potential hazards and risks including adverse effects during pregnancy on the developing fetus. Using a combination of the BeWo b30 placental transport model and the mouse embryonic stem cell test (EST), we investigated the capability of pristine AgNPs with different surface chemistries and aged AgNPs (silver sulfide (Ag2S) NPs) to cross the placental barrier and induce developmental toxicity. The uptake/association and transport of AgNPs through the BeWo b30 was characterized using ICP-MS and single particle (sp)ICP-MS at different time points. The developmental toxicity of the AgNPs was investigated by characterizing their potential to inhibit the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) into beating cardiomyocytes.ResultsThe AgNPs are able to cross the BeWo b30 cell layer to a level that was limited and dependent on their surface chemistry. In the EST, no in vitro developmental toxicity was observed as the effects on differentiation of the mESCs were only detected at cytotoxic concentrations. The aged AgNPs were significantly less cytotoxic, less bioavailable and did not induce developmental toxicity.ConclusionsPristine AgNPs are capable to cross the placental barrier to an extent that is influenced by their surface chemistry and that this transport is likely low but not negligible. Next to that, the tested AgNPs have low intrinsic potencies for developmental toxicity. The combination of the BeWo b30 model with the EST is of added value in developmental toxicity screening and prioritization of AgNPs.