• Article

Understanding and assessing potential environmental risks of nanomaterials: Emerging tools for emerging risks - a PhD project

International research efforts are currently underway in order to understand and assess the potential environmental and health risks of engineered nanomaterials (NM). These novel materials, whereby a nanomaterial is defined as a material having “one or more external dimensions in the nanoscale or which is nanostructured”(1), present significant challenges to scientists, researchers, governments, and policy-makers due to extensive knowledge gaps not only in understanding NM and their behavior in complex environmental systems, but also in terms of suitable risk analysis tools and frameworks. At the same time the sheer variety and number of NM, including various forms of nanoparticles, nanostructured surfaces or bulk forms (2), and their embedded applications further hamper risk assessments. For example, it has been recently estimated that there are more than 1300 manufacturer identified, nanotechnology-enabled products currently on the market (3). These applications range from health and fitness products to automotive and electrical products, just to name a few. Meanwhile, scientists, governments, and regulatory agencies are currently debating if standard methods to assess the potential environmental and health risks of NM are appropriate and suited for NM or if perhaps other risk assessment approaches would be more suitable. Therefore, not only is there a need to better understand NM themselves and their potential impacts, especially given their increased proliferation in society, but there is also a need to identify which risk assessment approaches may be most appropriate for NM and NM-embedded applications. This PhD research aims to respond to these challenges by1) describing the state of uncertainty within the potential environmental, health, and safety(EHS) risks of NM using a qualitative approach; 2) assessing and evaluating various risk analysis frameworks for NM which have been proposed as alternatives to standard risk assessment; and 3) applying novel approaches for decision making regarding the potential environmental risks of selected NM.

Citation

Grieger, K. (2011). Understanding and assessing potential environmental risks of nanomaterials: Emerging tools for emerging risks - a PhD project. Miljoe og Sundhed, 17(1), 43 - 46.