Saturday, March 12, 2005

Brussels EC Nanotech Workshop

Sorry, flu and grant deadline.

European Commission, NANOTECHNOLOGY – PROCEEDINGS OF THE WORKSHOP: RESEARCH NEEDS ON NANOPARTICLES, Eds., R. Tomellini and C. de Villepin, 25-26 January 2005.


Jung from the Paul Scherrer Institute wrote; “Neither the Nano- hype or euphoria nor Nano- bashing is recommended at the given time.” Nano is everywhere. “A normal room can contain 10,000 to 20,000 nanoparticles, whilst these figures can reach 50,000 nanoparticles per cubic meter in a wood and 100,000 nanoparticles per cubic meter in urban streets.”

Hoet discussed ultrafine particles translocating from the lung into the systemic circulation in his hamster studies. Kreyling from the Natl Research Center for Environment and Health argues, “Nanoparticles feature similar reactivity as ultrafine particles.” Migliore from Pisa warns that engineered nanoparticles should be distinguished from ultrafine particulates and the consensus seems to rest with this point of view. IOM’s Aitken observed, “As particle size decreases and surface properties become more active, toxicity and potential health effects increase” and “surface area is better metric that mass for predicting health effects.” The entire debate over naturally occurring versus engineered nanoparticles will not be resolved soon though it seems clear engineered particles may be more problematic.

While this report is technical, there are some very interesting observations. In Tomellini’s foreword, he maintained that “research results should be made available to all stakeholders as quickly as possible… and the public at large. The research he refers to related to environmental health and safety addressing interdisciplinary toxicological and eco-toxicological issues. Pridohl of Degussa/Dechema called for research into toxicokinetics (transport of nanoparticles into and through cells, crossing of organistic barriers, such as blood-brain and placenta barriers).

The report contains abstracts. As a result, the following while highlighting some of the important observations may not reflect the depth of the presentations. Nonetheless, the report is a challenging, but realistic, read for the researcher without a substantial background in toxicology.

Aitken and Schmit-Ott from Delft observed, “There are no effective methods available by which particle surface area can be assessed in the workplace.” Horn for TSI GmbH called for monitoring technologies in environmental settings (roadside, urban, etc.), industrial and traffic emissions, stationary workplace monitors, and even personal monitors. He also called for a metric that can assess integrated measurements (number concentration, surface concentration, mass concentration) and size distribution.

Karn from the EPA mentioned the Gordon Research Conference planned in nanotechnology, the environment, and a Research Progress Meeting in fall 2005. I will attempt to post more information of the GRC as it becomes available.

Tinkle from the NIH reviewed some transdermal research. Having read her studies from beginning to end, she makes interesting observations about distressed skin and beryllium dust. Associating distressed skin with sun-exposed and damaged skin is not difficult to envision. Whether there are implications for titanium oxide, sunscreen ointments will be addressed later. However, Tinkle’s work along with others suggests a transdermal portal for nanoparticle translocation. Butz for Leipzig observed, “The penetration is restricted to the first 3-5 cornezyte layers of the stratum corneum disjunctum”, as “penetration is not a diffusive process BUT nanoparticles are mechanically introduced into the stratum corneum as well as into hair follicles.” Butz recommends concern due to possible “risks of nanoparticle in titanium dioxide products.”

Sabbioni form Ispra (EC) claims, “the level of NP which typically occurs in the environment is probably not large enough to give rise to acute effects for general population failing in the category of low level exposure.” As such, Sabbioni voices the opinion of the consensus of experts: workplace exposure seems to be the most important vector environment at this time.

Rickerby from Ispra (EC) and Kirkpatrick of Mainz suggest primary routes of exposure associated with pharmaceuticals, or nano-ceuticals. We may expect application in diagnostics and drug or gene delivery systems. Application would occur through indirect injection, topical, or aerosol. What astounded me, what Kirkpatrick’s recommendation the nanosafety issues need to be addressed “to avoid negative press.” Migliore made a particularly worrisome remark when he recommended reserve into the genotoxicity of metals of nanotechnology and related these metals to neurogenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Another worrisome remark was made by Konstandopoulos from CERTH/CPERI who warned that “treating nanoparticles as new chemicals would only fuel more hysteria in the already unscientific oppositions to nanotechnology.”

Napier’s Stone recommended research to determine whether “current water treatment systems are effective in removing nanomaterials.” The absence of more supporting recommendations from others in the report seems to highlight the current view of the eco-toxicity of nanoparticles: a secondary concern.

What follows is a series of reports about about Nano research initiatives in the EC: NanoSafe, NanoSafe2, NanoCare, NanoPathology, NanoTox and Impart.

Hullman from DG RTD makes a remark “it is irrelevant whether the risk perception is realistic or irrational” and described some ELSA (ethical, legal, and social aspects) initiatives, from brochure, workshops, and websites to visualization projects in science museums. Konstandopoulos from CERTH/CPERI discussed the use of the concept of nano-car to assist the acceptance of nanotechnology. This is definitely a subject deserving more study.

Links to some of the abstracts are in the report, such as Rice’s Colvin, UK’s Mark, and Tel Aviv’s Korenstein.


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