Nanotechnology commercialisation calls for closer attention to safety and environmental considerations

30 Jun 2016

Commercial uses of nanotechnology are continuing to grow and expand. There already exists a huge number of different types of nanomaterials and nanotechniques, but not enough effort has gone into the management of safety-related risks, the costs of which are significant. This is causing much uncertainty in the field of nanotechnology application and also having a major impact on European competitiveness.

The small size of nanoparticles presents countless opportunities for the development of product characteristics. At the same time, however, small size can make nanoparticles toxic if they penetrate the skin or enter the circulation via the lungs. Nanomaterials can also cause a significant environmental burden.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the Academy of Finland are hosting a panel discussion on questions of nanosafety in connection with the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) conference in Manchester in July. The panel discussion will take place under the heading “The small matter of safety – responsible use of nanotechnology”.

Date: Wednesday 27 July at 2.15 p.m.

Venue: European Science Forum, Manchester Central (Exchange 10 room)

The panel will include Professor Kai Savolainen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH); Professor Andrea Hartwig from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Dr. Socorro Vázquez-Campos from LEITAT Technological Centre; Dr. Dario Greco from the University of Helsinki; and Dr. Emma Martín Rodríguez from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

The panellists will be addressing such questions as: How are consumers and employees exposed to nanomaterials? What are the health hazards and other risks involved? How to promote the safe and sustainable use of nanomaterials?

Clarifying potential risks to both people and the environment

Nanoparticles are particles less than 100 nanometres in size that are used in engineered nanomaterials (ENM). As well as presenting a risk to human health, ENM have been shown to evoke harmful effects among environmental species including mammalian organisms, small animals like daphnia magna, or bacteria and plants.

“There are thousands of nano-enabled products on the market intended for consumers, but we still have limited knowledge about the effects of ENM on human health and the environment,” says Professor Kai Savolainen.

“Furthermore, there are tens of thousands of different ENM of which no more than 200 are being used commercially. Many of them are harmless, but some may be hazardous to health, and even cause cancer. In addition, many of these materials may in higher amounts cause environmental harm,” Savolainen explains.

To aid the responsible development of nanotechnologies, the EU framework programme is funding several research projects that are addressing uncertainties in the health and safety of nanomaterials. One of these projects is NANOSOLUTIONS, which is coordinated by FIOH. The project will develop a “Nanosafety Classifier” – a computational based predictive principle for the assessment of ENM safety.

“Currently, each ENM has to be treated as a separate chemical and be individually tested to assess its safety characteristics. This means that developing new materials using different nanoparticles is both time-consuming and expensive,” says Dr. Dario Greco from the University of Helsinki.

“NANOSOLUTIONS will create a set of biomarkers of ENM toxicity that are relevant in assessing and predicting the safety and toxicity of ENM across species. This will help to reduce expenses and uncertainty as well as increase the rapidity of ENM hazard assessment,” Dr. Greco continues.  

Watch the video:

Further information

Professor Kai Savolainen, FIOH, tel. +358 30 474 2200, mobile +358 40 742 0574,

Dr. Dario Greco, Academy Research Fellow, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 2941 58952,         

Elina Drakvik, Project Manager, FIOH
tel. + 358 43 8244265,

Tuula Toivio, Communications Specialist, Academy of Finland
tel. +358 295 33 5156,        

ESOF– EuroScience Open Forum – is a biennial pan-European meeting dedicated to scientific research and innovation. At ESOF meetings leading scientists, researchers, young researchers, business people, entrepreneurs and innovators, policy makers, science and technology communicators and the general public from all over Europe discuss new discoveries and debate the direction that research is taking in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. ESOF 2016 will be organized in Manchester on 23-27 July 2016.

Last modified 30 Jun 2016
Connect with us
Facebook  Twitter YoutubeLinkedInSlideshare
SWITCHBOARD +358 295 335 000
REGISTRY +358 295 335 049
FAX +358 295 335 299
OFFICE HOURS Mon–Fri 8.00–16.15