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May 6, 2019

Germany Announces Research Project to Establish Criteria for Assessment of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of Novel (Nano) Materials

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On April 29, 2019, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) announced InnoMat.Life, a joint research project to establish criteria for an efficient assessment of the human health and environmental risks of novel (nano) materials.  The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is providing 2.22 million euro to fund the project, which will be coordinated by BfR and includes ten partners from public authorities, academia, and industry.  BfR states that until now, nanosafety research focused mainly on first generation nanomaterials, i.e., mainly round particles of pure substances such as nanosilver, titanium oxide, and zinc oxide.  In real life, far more materials are used, however.  Hybrid materials, consisting of two or more substances, are often applied, and nanoparticles can have many different shapes.  Many industrially used materials cover a broad size distribution from nanometers to micrometers.  Moreover, according to BfR, many industrial applications are based on material systems that alter their structure during manufacturing or use, such as the layer-by-layer assembly of products manufactured with 3D printers.  InnoMat.Life expands the research focus and addresses new material classes, including materials with a broad particle size distribution, such as metals and polymer powders for 3D printing, as well as materials with other shapes and sizes, such as rods, platelets, and fibers.  A third focus area comprises hybrid materials made from two or more substances.  According to BfR, one of the main goals of InnoMat.Life is to establish criteria catalogs such that novel materials can be grouped together with regard to their hazard potential.  This will be done also considering exposure potential for humans and the environment.  The project takes into account the full material life cycle, from synthesis to disposal.