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Posted: April 15, 2008

University of Iowa researchers receive $1.2 million grant to study the toxicity of inhaled nanomaterials

(Nanowerk News) Researchers at the UI Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute have been given a $1.2 million research grant to study the toxicity of inhaled nanomaterials.
The grant, which was awarded by the National Institutes of Health, will be used to explore the dangers these man-made microscopic materials pose to human health, especially to the workers who manufacture them.
Nanomaterials are small structures that can range between 1 and 100 nanometers -a nanometer is a billionth of a meter.
These materials can be found in every-day materials such as cosmetics, lotions, and rain-repellent products.
"We want to determine a relationship between nanoparticle properties and health," said UI Professor Vicki Grassian, the director of the UI Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute.
The study aims to determine whether carbon- or metal-based nanomaterials are dangerous, she said, as well as what properties of these particles are toxic.
"Nanotechnology is growing, so the nanomaterials have a potential to get out into the environment and into the air," she said. "We want to determine before they get out into the environment whether there are any dangers."
There aren't large numbers of nanomaterials in the atmosphere, Grassian said, but there is evidence that tiny materials can be dangerous to people's health.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy, a UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health, said the main concern regarding nanomaterials is that because of their small size, the particles could easily travel into the lower lungs. If these materials reached alveolar sacks, the gas exchange region of the lungs, the particles could get into the bloodstream and move throughout the body.
There have not been any indications of human health-related instances regarding nanomaterials, but O'Shaughnessy said researchers want to be proactive in case they could cause a health problem. The manufacture of nanomaterials has created a whole new area of research regarding their health effects.
Grassian and O'Shaughnessy will work with Peter Throne, a UI professor of occupational and environmental health.
The university created the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute in 2006 to study the effects of nanoscience and nanotechnology on the environment and human health, as well as to examine the properties of nanomaterials.
The institute comprises UI faculty members from the Colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Pharmacy, Medicine, Dentistry, and Public Health dedicated to the study of nanotechnology and nanoscience.
Source: The Daily Iowan (Patrick Futtner)