Toxicity Data Lacking

With the number of nanotechnology-enabled products entering the market expected to grow dramatically “numerous uncertainties exist regarding possible impacts on the environment and human health,” international authors observe in a report.

According to the report, wisely implemented assessment tools such as LCA can help corporations and researchers determine likely environmental impacts at various stages in a new nanotechnology product’s life cycle.

Based on discussions among 27 international nanotechnology and LCA experts at a two-day workshop held in October 2006, the report is being simultaneously released by the European Commission (EC) and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report concludes that the existing International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and other widely used frameworks for LCA are fully applicable to nanomaterials and nanoproducts.

However, according to the report, the specificity of LCA results for nanotechnology products will be limited by the “lack of data and understanding” in areas central to the accurate assessment of the environmental, human health, and safety effects of a particular nanomaterial or process.

“The lack of toxicity data specific to nanomaterials is a repeating theme in this and in other studies related to nanotech environmental, health, and safety concerns,” says Andrew Maynard, chief scientist for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

“The report calls for international cooperation and coordination — among governments, university researchers, corporations, and consumer and other groups — to help address critical data needs,” according to Project visiting scientist Barbara Karn. “It also highlights the need for nano-specific protocols and practical methodologies for toxicology studies, fate and transport studies, and scaling approaches.”

Despite incomplete information, according to the report, LCA can be useful now, as long as uncertainties and data gaps are clearly stated. Results can help to focus attention on high-priority products and issues with the aim of eliminating critical unknowns and encouraging life-cycle thinking during the first wave of nanotechnology innovation.

COMPAMED.de; Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies