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September 30, 2011

Australia Publishes Literature Review Relating to Six Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

Australia’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) announced on September 28, 2011, the availability of a review of the 2007-2009 literature on toxicological and health effects relating to six nanomaterials. NICNAS commissioned the review and analysis of literature concerning fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and nanoforms of zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, cerium oxide, and silver. According to NICNAS, it chose these nanomaterials because it considers them “to already be in, or close to, commercial use in Australia.”  The goal of the review was to identify any available scientific evidence of important toxicological/health effects that had not been covered by the scope of previous reviews and therefore supplement currently available scientific information on these substances.

In the report, several “special features” of nanoparticle-induced toxicity are singled out for more detailed analysis:

  • The extent to which repeated-dose vs. single dose and/or in vitro studies can contribute useful information to undertake a health risk assessment;
  • How likely is it that fibrous nanomaterials can reproduce the adverse health effects of asbestos fibers;
  • Whether there is new information about the extent to which nanoparticles can be absorbed across unbroken skin;
  • Whether some nanoparticles represent a specific risk of neurotoxicity under conditions where they can actually reach the brain, or whether nanoparticle exposure can result in cardiovascular toxicity; and
  • Knowledge gaps which might help to inform health risk assessment, and in particular, whether advances in knowledge of the effects of surface modification, or other structure-activity relationships, or application of genomic techniques, might fill some of these gaps.