American Chemical Society

New tests for determining health and environmental effects of nanomaterials

A group of international experts from government, industry and academia have concluded that alternative testing strategies (ATSs) that don't rely on animals will be needed to cope with the wave of new nanomaterials emerging from the boom in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Their consensus statement from a workshop on the topic appears in the journal ACS Nano.

Andre Nel and colleagues explain that many new engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are appearing in laboratories, factories and consumer products as a result of advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology. These fields involve materials so small that hundreds would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence, and they have properties much different from larger particles of the same material. Tests on laboratory mice, rats and other animals have been the standard way of checking new materials for health and environmental effects. Since those tests are costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming, workshop participants considered whether ATSs could have a larger role in checking the safety of ENMs.

They concluded that rapid cellular screening, computer modeling and other ATSs could serve as quick, cost-effective and reliable approaches for gathering certain types of information about the health and environmental effects of ENMs. "After lively discussions, a short list of generally shared viewpoints on this topic was generated, including a general view that ATS approaches for ENMs can significantly benefit chemical safety analysis," they say.