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May 25, 2016

Swiss Researchers Develop Model to Assess How Nanoparticles “Flow Through the Environment”

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The Swiss National Science Foundation issued a May 12, 2016, press release announcing that researchers from the National Research Program “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” have developed a new model to track the flow of the “most important nanomaterials in the environment.”  To assess how man-made nanoparticles make their way into the air, earth, or water, researchers developed a computer model to determine the environmental accumulation of nanosilver, nanozinc, nano-titanium dioxide, and carbon nanotubes.  The press release notes that knowing the degree of accumulation in the environment is only the first step in the risk assessment of nanomaterials.  This data must be compared with ecotoxicological test results and the statutory thresholds.  According to the press release, in the case of nanozinc, “its concentration in the environment is approaching the critical level.”  The press release states that it “has to be given priority in future ecotoxicological studies — even though nanozinc is produced in smaller quantities than nano-titanium dioxide.”  Furthermore, according to the press release, ecotoxicological tests have until now been carried out primarily with freshwater organisms.  The researchers conclude that complementary investigations using soil-dwelling organisms are a priority.