EPA Announces Nanotechnology Safety Research Grants

As reported by AzoNano.com, the EPA recently announced the award of two grants, collectively worth $600,000, to researchers at Oregon State University to study the human health impacts of nanomaterials.  The pair of studies look like the first step toward nanotechnology regulation.  According to the AzoNano article, the first study is a survey of common manufactured nanomaterials to understand their interaction with biological processes.  The second study looks specifically at how manufactured nanomaterials may "damage or kill cells:"

Dr. Alan Bakalinsky is studying the relationship between specific characteristics of nanoparticles, like shape and structure, and their effects on cells. The work is expected to lead to the development of safety guidelines for industrial and environmental exposure to nanomaterials. "We're trying to identify specific structures in manufactured nanoparticles that might cause damage to cells," said Bakalinsky. "If we can determine which shapes and structures are most dangerous to cell function, it should be possible to design the materials to avoid those shapes and minimize the risk of damage."

Both Oregon State researchers, Drs. Bakalinsky and Tanguay, look to be relatively new to the nanotechnology field.  Bakalinsky is a food science researcher and Tanguay is a molecular toxicologist. 

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Kristen Kulinowski - July 10, 2007 2:15 PM

Thanks for sharing the news of this award. The work proposed is critical to the development of a robust knowledge base of nano EHS data that can inform regulation. However, I would not characterize it as "the first step toward nanotechnology regulation" for several reasons. First, there is already a body of research into the effects of engineered nanoparticles on biological systems. We collect these papers in our database (http://icon.rice.edu/virtualjournal.cfm). This new work will contribute to the growing discussion within the nanotech community about how best to handle these materials safely. Second, targeted research of this kind can inform regulators but is not necessarily directed at producing specific regulations. Rather, it provides sound scientific data that governments, industry and other laboratories can use when dealing with nanoparticles. Finally, the approach described seems right on point. That is, the researchers seek to understand what it is about a nanoparticle that results in a biological interaction to enable the better design of biocompatible or benign technologies. Regulation is not the only or even the primary goal here. The proposed work dovetails nicely with ICON's efforts to develop a research strategy for predicting nano-bio interactions.

John Monica - July 10, 2007 3:57 PM

Dr. Kulinowski's point is well taken. The sentence "The pair of studies look like the first step toward nanotechnology regulation" probably should be revised along the lines of her comment. As for ICON's EHS database/virtual journal, it is an invaluable tool we regularly use in our own nano-related EHS work here at PWMA.

Kristen Kulinowski - July 10, 2007 5:42 PM

Thanks, John. This blog is a very useful source of information and one of my daily reads.

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