ICON - International Council on Nanotechnology: A partnership for nanotechnology stewardship and sustainability


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International Assessment of Research Needs for
Nanotechnology Environment, Health and Safety

A series of 3 workshops has been designed to engage an international, multi-disciplinary group of experts in developing a framework for understanding the interactions of nanoparticles with living systems and the environment.

Purpose:  to identify and prioritize the research needed to classify nanomaterials by physical and chemical properties and develop predictive models for their interactions with living systems and the environment. Until predictive models are developed, risk assessors will need knowledge of the potential interaction of the nanomaterial with biological organisms and the environment at each stage of the lifecycle. Thus, an understanding of the functional properties that correlate with the biological and environmental response is needed.

Workshop 3  (March 9 and 10, 2009; Final Report Issued February 2, 2010)

An International Workshop on Priorities to Advance the Eco-Responsible Design and Disposal of Engineered Nanomaterials: The following themes will be discussed:

Theme 1: Eco-Responsible Design—Engineering Environmentally Benign Nanoparticles

  • Structure-Activity Relationships for Nanoparticles in the Environment
  • Computational Modeling of Nanoparticles in the Environment
  • Toward Predicting Fate, Transport and Transformation
  • Metrology, quantification and tracing NPs in the atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic environment

Theme 2: Eco-Responsible Disposal—Waste Management of Nanomaterials throughout Lifecycle

  • Exposure and Release Scenarios
  • Responsible Disposal of Nanomaterials from R&D Labs
  • Impact of Nanoparticles on Sewage Treatment Plants
  • Potential Transport of Nanoparticles through Landfill Liners
  • Information Needs for Waste Disposal Companies and Recyclers
  • Minimizing Production and Recycling of Nanomaterial Waste


Workshops 1 and 2 (Completed)

The unique properties and potential mobility of engineered nanoparticles, along with the lack of mobile monitors to detect their presence, pose significant challenges to the development of best practices for nanomaterial handling throughout the lifecycle. Extrapolating from health and safety data available for a larger-scale material may fail to capture the nanoscale analog’s interactions.

The goals of the first ICON workshop (Towards Nanomaterial Classes) were to identify preliminary classes of nanomaterials with common properties and to identify for these classes potential “hot spots” in their lifecycle. The results from Workshop 1 served as input to Workshop 2 (Towards Predicting Nano-Biointeractions), which had as its goal to define research strategies toward developing predictive models of engineered nanomaterials’ interactions with biological systems.

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This work is supported in part by the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative of the National Science Foundation
under NSF Award Number EEC-0118007.

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