10 years of research: Risk assessment, human and environmental toxicology of nanomaterials

(Nanowerk News) A new document from DECHEMA and VCI offers a summary of papers and work which have already been completed together with the results obtained, as well as a summary of the on-going activities and expected results. Here, the main focus of our considerations is on Germany, with a wider outlook on papers and results at European level.
In the future, nanotechnology and the resulting nanomaterials may represent the major key for solving the most important challenges facing our society in a range of pivotal areas of fundamental needs, including energy, the environment, climate, efficient use of resources, mobility, safety, information/communication, health and food supplies. In order to be able to make sustainable use of the opportunities offered by this technology, it is vital to ensure the safety of nanomaterials in their applications along their respective value creation chains and lifecycles.
In the past decade, a large number of projects has already been started up and carried out in order to conduct research into the safety of nanomaterials, and these projects have delivered a series of important results for different nanomaterials. The following general conclusions can be drawn from the projects carried out to date under realistic conditions:
  • A risk assessment – where necessary in individual cases - should be performed on the basis of suitably modified and adapted OECD methods which have been validated and are internationally recognised. This confirms the OECD observation that the internationally recognised OECD methods and testing guidelines are suitable in principle for the testing of nanomaterials.
  • The size label 'nano' does not also immediately mean ‚toxic', so it does not represent an intrinsic hazard characteristic.
  • For the benefit of all of society, the continuous transfer of research results from the laboratories into successful innovations should be continued, and this process should be supported with accompanying safety research. The following will be required for this safety research:
  • financial means, combined with sufficient numbers of suitably qualified research scientists;
  • coordinated research into areas of interactions between nanomaterials and humans and the environment, so that individual results can be combined into structure-activity relationships which can then be used as signposts for new, safe nanomaterial developments;
  • compliance with research standards (e.g. through Standard Operating Procedures, SOPs) in order to ensure comparability and reproducibility of results;
  • publication of negative research results as well, i.e. studies in which no toxicological effects of nanomaterials could be displayed, so that the overall picture is not distorted;
  • topical assessment of lifecycles as soon as corresponding commercial applications start to emerge.
  • These scientific investigations and approaches should be supplemented with measures to inform and engage in dialogue with the general public, so that they can understand the opportunities and safety aspects of nanomaterials, and hence the level of acceptance for this technology can be increased.
    Source: DECHEMA/VCI
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