Empirical information regarding the fate and ecotoxicity of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) is needed in order to assess ecological risk. While information regarding the ecotoxicity of some commercially available ENPs is emerging, it is often unclear if materials at the nano scale pose particular unique hazards compared to the same material at a macro scale. Furthermore, the toxicological effect of changes in ENP size, surface area, and behaviour (dispersion, aggregation, agglomeration, etc.) in test media and in the environment remains a critical area where research is lacking.
In order to determine the potential ecotoxicological effects of ENPs in environmentally relevant conditions, it is necessary to understand their routes of release and subsequent behaviour and bioavailability in environmental matrices. There are limited data that indicate that ENPs are unlikely to occur as single particles but are more likely to agglomerate and/or aggregate with other suspended or sedimentary particulate phases. On the other hand there are data to suggest that some components of environmental matrices such as fulvic or humic acids stabilise individual ENPs in water. Research is needed to better understand this behaviour. This will be critical in designing studies that determine potential effects of ENPs under environmentally realistic conditions.
In order to meet regulatory and public concern, industry needs to evaluate the ecological risk from ENPs. Currently accepted testing strategies must be evaluated, supplemented and improved where possible to address nano specific effects and focus on ecologically relevant exposures.
Cefic seeks novel project proposals which will result in an improved understanding of the environmental fate and behaviour of ENPs. Proposals submitted under this call should address relevant environmental matrices and develop suitable techniques for measurement. There would also be interest in assessing how the fate of ENPs influences bioavailability. The proposals should include an analysis of the relevant literature and also may include, but not be limited to the following:
- Develop/improve methods to characterize ENPs in environmentally relevant matrices
- Identification of the key properties of ENPs (e.g. surface area, shape, size, zeta potential, surface chemical functionality) that influence their environmental fate
- Identification of the key characteristics of environmental matrices that influence the fate of ENPs
- Development of testing methods/guidance
- Exposure modelling approaches
Short interim reports on progress are required at 6-monthly intervals. It is expected that the findings will be developed into a peer reviewed publication, following presentation at a suitable scientific conference.