Smarten

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Abstract

Traditional risk assessment procedures are inadequate for predicting the ecological risks associated with the release of nanomaterials (NM) into the environment. The root of the problem lies in an inadequate application of solid phase chemical principles (e.g. particle size, shape, functionality) for the risk assessment of NMs. Thus, the “solubility” paradigm used to evaluate the risks associated with other classes of contaminants must be replaced by a “dispersivity” paradigm for evaluating the risks associated with NM. The pace of development of NM will exceed the capacity to conduct adequate risk assessments using current methods and approaches. Each NM product will be available in a variety of size classes and with different surface functionalizations; probably requiring multiple risk assessments for each NM. The “SMARTEN” approach to risk assessment involves having risk assessors play a more proactive role in evaluating all aspects of the NM life cycle and in making decisions to develop lower risk NM products. Improved problem formulation could come from considering the chemical, physical and biological properties of NMs. New effects assessment techniques are needed to evaluate cellular binding and uptake potential, such as biological assays for binding to macromolecules or organelles, phagocytic activity, and active/passive uptake processes. Tests should be developed to evaluate biological effects with multiple species across a range of trophic levels. Despite our best efforts to assess the risks associated with NM, previous experience indicates that some NM products will enter the environment and cause biological effects. Therefore, risk assessors should support programs for reconnaissance and surveillance to detect the impacts of NM before irreversible damage occurs. New analytical tools are needed for surveillance, including sensors for detecting NMs, passive sampling systems, and improved methods for separation and characterization of NMs in environmental matrices, as well as biomarker techniques to evaluate exposure to NMs. Risk assessors should use this information to refine data quality, determine future risk assessment objectives and to communicate interim conclusions to a wide group of stakeholders.1