Nano-Safety – A Real Approach

Two interesting reports have emerged in the last couple of days. “Nanoparticle safety: The quest for the gold standard” [1] by Dr. Harald Krug, a toxicologist, at Empa, the Swiss interdisciplinary research institution for material sciences and technology. His work, which included evaluating several thousand studies on the risks associated with nanoparticles, has determined that the majority of reported efforts contain poorly prepared experiments. Empa is working to develop new standards for nanomaterial experiments.

One of the key findings is that the researchers “maltreat their laboratory animals with absurdly high amounts of nanoparticles.”[1] He points out that the quantities employed in some cases are sufficient to cause cells to die from creating a barrier layer that nutrients and oxygen can not penetrate. Empa is collaborating with research groups and industry to address the problem of inappropriate experiments and is anticipating the release of pre-validated methods for laboratory experiments.

A second report “High Throughput Heuristics for Prioritizing Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals”{2] which is summarized in the article “Scientists rank thousands of substances according to potential exposure level”[3]. The latter article indicates that risk of any substance is based on the potential hazards a chemical has along with the level of exposure. This becomes more important as the industry adds about 1,000 new chemical substances every year. This effort is directed at providing knowledge that will be important in future research.

These two efforts mentioned above indicate that we are starting on the correct path to identify what needs to be classified as truly dangerous and to remove the “hype” from “research” publications that are meant to create concern in the general public without real facts.

On this Halloween Day, it is good to report on efforts that are aimed at taking the “fright” out of some published reports and learn that good scientific work will be done to provide accurate information.





About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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