A new Horizon Magazine feature article discusses how tracking the environmental exposure of the emerging nanomaterial industry could prevent potentially harmful chemicals from polluting soil and water, and how NanoFASE, alongside other EU-funded projects, is working towards achieving these goals.
Safer sun cream, energy-storing plastics, non-stick surfaces, richer fertilisers and sweat-proof clothes – the evolution of nanotechnology, which utilises the special properties of small clusters of atoms, has led to an abundance of new products. However, relatively little is known about what happens when these nanomaterials enter the environment.
The article quotes NanoFASE co-ordinator, Dr Dr Svendsen, on the issue: ‘The main environmental concerns at the moment are understanding any effects of direct exposure, which could take place for plants and small organisms that might come into contact with nanopesticides and nanofertilisers.’
‘There haven't been any highlighted risks so far in the risk assessment exercises that have been led within the European research projects – but some of them have come close to where you would start asking for more data to assess that the margin (of risk) is reasonable.’
Dr Svendsen adds that current risk assessments primarily look at the manufactured form of nanomaterials, which takes a worst-case-scenario approach, but often isn’t relevant from an environmental contamination point of view.
To cover such knowledge gaps, NanoFASE is working towards tracking the environmental fate of industrial nanomaterials from production to their final resting place. The project hopes to advance the understanding of where nanomaterials end up during their lifecycle and what changes they may have gone through with a vision to help safer product design and support future nanomaterial regulation.
Read more about the nano industry, its possible effects on the environment and how NanoFASE is helping to develop knowledge in it in the original article.