Due to the attractive new properties of engineered nanomaterials several industries increasingly develop, produce and apply them in a variety of products. We already know that inhalation of some particulate nanomaterials may result in stronger or different adverse effects than inhalation of their coarser chemical counterparts, while others do not. Handling of nanomaterial powders is also usually associated with exposure to much finer dust particles than work with pigments and coarser particles. Hence, there is a need for focused research to systematically unravel the hazards of different nanomaterials and the risk of being exposed to them in the working environment.
Improved knowledge on exposure, hazard identification and risk assessment
The purpose of the Danish NanoSafety Centre is perform research as well as collect and disseminate detailed knowledge about
- the extent to which employees are exposed to engineered nanomaterials in the working environment
- the potential adverse effects of exposure to nanomaterials
- proper risk assessment and management in the workplace.
The ultimal goal is to enable state-of-the-science risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials based on the most recent knowledge about the physical and chemical characteristics of nanoparticles, their potential health effects, and exposure characteristics.
Four key research areas
The research is subdivided into four themes:
Improved exposure assessment
The NanoSafety Centre will develop and apply established and new methods to improve exposure measurements of nanoparticles in the workplace. The experimental work will include measurements of mass-concentration, particle number, size distribution and surface area, and studies of their characteristics (eg, particle shape and surface's chemical composition and reactivity).
Improved knowledge of toxic effects of exposure to nanomaterials
The NanoSafety Centre will use animal models to study the adverse effects following exposure to nanoparticles in the workplace in relation to acute respiratory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease and adverse effects on reproduction.
Improved knowledge about the mechanisms of action
The NanoSafety Centre will explore the mechanisms of action underlying the adverse health effects. The researchers will focus on three hypotheses:
- Exposure to nanoparticles induces inflammation (inflammatory response), which indirectly leads to adverse health effects.
- Reactivity of nanoparticles and their surface in itself lead to adverse health effects.
- nanoparticles react with and disturbs the function of the key biomolecules in the body.
Knowledge of the underlying mechanism of action can be used to predict toxicity of new nanoparticles based on knowledge of the physical and chemical properties only.
Better models for risk assessment and management
The NanoSafety Centre will integrate its own and international results to develop an internet-based versatile state-of-the-science risk assessment tool, which will enable industries and OSH officers to assess and manage risks associated with production and use of nanomaterials. The tool will be divided into at least three modules, which will enable:
- Qualitative risk assessment according to REACH exposure scenarios
- Semiquantitative risk assessment according to REACH exposure scenarios or specific occupational exposure modelling
- Quantitative risk assessment using detailed specific occupational exposure modelling
The risk management tool will include documented guidance and modelling using the latest experimental knowledge on the effectiveness of technical and personal protective equipment.
You can read more about Danish NanoSafety Centre here on the website.