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Posted: Apr 15, 2011
EU research center contributes to risk assessment of selected engineered nanomaterials to human health and the environment
(Nanowerk News) Human health risks may arise from chronic occupational inhalation exposure to nanoparticles, and for the environment from metal and metal oxide nanomaterials. More data is however needed before drawing definitive conclusions on the risks from exposure to nanomaterials.
Scientists from the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) performed basic risk assessments for four types of nanomaterials: fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, nano-silver and metal-oxides (nano-titanium dioxide and nano-zinc oxide) following the methodology described in the REACH guidance.
The assessments were based on a comprehensive and critical scientific review of the health and environmental safety concerns of these specific nanomaterials (ENRHES Final Report).
The results of the studies show that the main risk for human health may arise from chronic occupational inhalation exposure, especially during activities of high particle release and uncontrolled exposure. With regard to consumers, spray applications of nanomaterials may be of concern. The main risk for the environment (especially for algae and daphnia) is expected from metal and metal oxide nanomaterials, due to exposure to both particles and ions.
Publicly available hazard and exposure data for the investigated nanomaterials are however limited and there are high uncertainties in any conclusion on a possible risk. Furthermore, since the EU legislative framework on chemicals - REACH – and the associated guidance documents do not take into consideration any specific behaviour of substances in the nanoform, further work is required in the generation of data and the development of methodologies.
From the results of the ENRHES project and follow up investigations, JRC-IHCP scientists, together with colleagues from Edinburgh University and the Institute of Occupational Medicine, have published a number of papers (listed below) on human health and environmental hazards and safety.