Exposure assessment is a key component in the risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). While direct and quantitative measurements of ENMs in complex environmental matrices remain challenging, environmental fate models (EFMs) can be used alternatively for estimating ENMs’ distributions in the environment. This review describes and assesses the development and capability of EFMs, focusing on surface waters. Our review finds that current engineered nanomaterial (ENM) exposure models can be largely classified into three types: material flow analysis models (MFAMs), multimedia compartmental models (MCMs), and spatial river/watershed models (SRWMs). MFAMs, which is already used to derive predicted environmental concentrations (PECs), can be used to estimate the releases of ENMs as inputs to EFMs. Both MCMs and SRWMs belong to EFMs. MCMs are spatially and/or temporally averaged models, which describe ENM fate processes as intermedia transfer of well-mixed environmental compartments. SRWMs are spatiotemporally resolved models, which consider the variability in watershed and/or stream hydrology, morphology, and sediment transport of river networks. As the foundation of EFMs, we also review the existing and emerging ENM fate processes and their inclusion in recent EFMs. We find that while ENM fate processes, such as heteroaggregation and dissolution, are commonly included in current EFMs, few models consider photoreaction and sulfidation, evaluation of the relative importance of fate processes, and the fate of weathered/transformed ENMs. We conclude the review by identifying the opportunities and challenges in using EFMs for ENMs.
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