A new synopsis of findings from the ICON workshop on Eco-Responsible Design and Disposal of Engineered Nanomaterials has been published in ACS Nano (subscription required). First a little history: ICON has had since its inception in 2004 an interest in identifying and closing critical knowledge gaps that currently limit our ability to predict the impacts of engineered nanomaterials on living systems. Toward this end, we have convened a series of workshops to identify and highlight these gaps, with the aim of focusing governmental and other resources and attention on the most pressing issues. The first two workshops (full report here) addressed impacts on living organisms; the third held on March 9-10, 2009 near Rice University addressed the environment explicitly.
Convened with support from the UK Science and Innovation Network (our friends at the British Consulate-General Houston), the National Science Foundation, the TX-UK Collaborative and Nanonet, the environmental workshop attracted 57 experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. The first theme covered what by now is fairly standard fodder for a nanoEHS workshop:
- Theme 1: Eco-Responsible Design—Engineering Environmentally Benign Nanoparticles
- Metrology, Quantification and Tracing NPs in the Atmospheric, Terrestrial and Aquatic Environment
- Structure-Activity Relationships for Nanoparticles in the Environment
- Toward Predicting Multimedia Fate and Transport
- Computational Modeling of Nanoparticle Modifications in the Environment
- Theme 2: Eco-Responsible Disposal—Waste Management of Nanomaterials throughout Lifecycle
- Responsible Minimization and Disposal of Nanomaterial Production Wastes
- Release and Exposure Scenarios/Source Dynamics
- Impact of Nanoparticles on Ennvironmental Protection Infrastructure
- Information Needs for Waste Disposal Companies and Recyclers
Authored by workshop planning team members Pedro Alvarez and Vicki Colvin (Rice), Jamie Lead (University of Birmingham) and Vicki Stone (Edinburgh Napier University), the ACS Nano Focus reiterates some of the major themes from the first workshop report, which just serves to highlight how little has changed in the two years since its publication.
Here's an excerpt from the abstract:
Sound familiar? Yeah, I know. Stay tuned for the full report, which, like all ICON products will be freely available at our website.
Critical research needs to advance this urgent priority include (1) structure-activity relationships to predict functional stability and chemistry of MNMs in the environment and to discern properties that increase their bioavailability, bioaccumulation, and toxicity; (2) standardized protocols to assess MNM bioavailability, trophic transfer, and sublethal effects; and (3) validated multiphase fate and transport models that consider various release scenarios and predict the form and concentration of MNMs at the point of exposure. These efforts would greatly benefit from the development of robust analytical techniques to characterize and to track MNMs in the environment and to validate models and from shared reference MNM libraries.