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Posted: December 16, 2008

European Union funds EUR 3 million nanotechnology risk research

(Nanowerk News) Concerns about the wider impact of nanoparticles found in everyday products, such as sun tan cream, will be investigated in a new project funded by the European Union.
Dr Andrew Nelson, a chemist at the University of Leeds, will lead the project which has been awarded €3 million by the European Union and brings together experts from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Spain to assess how nanotechnology impacts on our environment.
“There is a huge need for this research as some nanoparticles that are used in everyday products, such as paint and suntan cream, have never been properly tested,” says Dr Nelson, who has pioneered studies into the toxicology of nanomaterials.
“What this project is aiming to do is assess the subtle, long term environmental and health problems that these new particles may cause.”
This project will take particular interest in the metal oxide group of nanoparticles, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are common in a range of different products that are in wide circulation, for example in anti-bacterial cleaning products, ointments, suntan creams and paints.
The research at the University of Leeds will focus on testing nanoparticles on model biological membranes, and DNA, to assess any long term damage. Across Europe the project will tackle how nanoparticles affect the environment at varying levels of complexity – from their effect on single cells, to fish, and to how nanoparticles are transported in waterways and rivers.
The overall aim will be to develop a global model of how nanoparticles interact with the environment. Scientists will then be able to advise the EU about the more far-reaching dangers of nanotechnology.
“What has never been done before is to look at the relationship between the physical structure of nanoparticles and their toxicity. What we’re trying to do is develop risk assessment strategies that account for the complex behaviour of very small particles,” says Dr Nelson.
Called the ENgineered Nanoparticles, Structure, Activity and TOXicology project (ENNSATOX), it will create two new post doctoral positions. Research is due to begin in summer 2009.
Source: University of Leeds