A Nanotoxicology Methodology

The article on toxicology methodologies we mentioned earlier has now been published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology and merits a brief write up in the New York Times.

“Principles for characterizing the potential human health effects from exposure to nanomaterials: elements of a screening strategy” is by many of toxicology’s top experts such as Gunter Oberdorster and Ken Donaldson.

The 113 page article will take a little time to digest, but addressees the key issues of how to screen toxicity, defining nanoparticles and distinguishing between levels of risk. The article is more concerned about how to apply existing methodologies to nanoparticles rather than producing new tests, something that is mirrored in approaches to legislation.

With large numbers of nanomaterials coming into production, it is important that we distinguish between those which may present a hazard and those which may not. While the report doesn’t distinguish between different types of particle the authors agree with the recent Royal Society report as far as which forms of materials need special attention..

“Engineered nanomaterials presenting a potential risk to human health include those capable of entering the body and exhibiting a biological activity that is associated with their nanostructure. Nanomaterial-based products such as nanocomposites, surface coatings and electronic circuits are unlikely to present a direct risk as exposure potential will be low to negligible. Nanomaterials that are most likely to present a health risk are nanoparticles, agglomerates of nanoparticles, and particles of nanostructured material (where the nanostructure determines behavior). In each of these cases, exposure potential exists for materials in air and in liquid suspensions or slurries.”

According to the Foresight Institute, much of this work was unnecessary as apparently all of these issues (and many more relating to the toxicology of diamondoid flying nanobots if we remember correctly – which may explain why the work was not taken too seriously) have already been addressed by Robert Freitas in his book Nanomedicine.

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