Scientists find potential risks of nanomaterials

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Carbon, Oxygen, European union

Scientists from the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) have performed basic risk assessments for four types of nanomaterials finding that risks may arise for both humans and the environment.

Having carried out the tests following the methodology described in the REACH guidance, they found that human health risks may arise from chronic occupational inhalation exposure to nanoparticles, as well as environmental risks from metal and metal oxide nanomaterials.

The scientists were keen to point out after that these were only initial findings and that more data is needed before drawing definitive conclusions on the risks from exposure to nanomaterials.

Under evaluation

The four types of nanomaterials tested were fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, nano-silver and metal-oxides (nano-titanium dioxide and nano-zinc oxide).

The assessments were based on a comprehensive and critical scientific review of the health and environmental safety concerns of these specific nanomaterials.

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, the scientists say that spray applications of nanomaterials may be of concern.

According to the study, 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.

Uncertainties over risk

However, data containing the hazard and exposure information for the investigated nanomaterials is not easily available to the public and, prompting the scientists to state 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, the scientists say further work is required in the generation of data and the development of methodologies.

Source: JRC-Institute for Health and Consumer Protection

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