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National Nanotechnology Initiative Issues New EHS-Strategy Document

Written by John C. Monica, Jr.
December 15, 2010

NNI Portal Icon On December 6, 2010, the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology released the draft "National Nanotechnology Initiative 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Strategy" (2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy).  The document is intended to replace the National Nanotechnology Initiative's (NNI) prior 2008 document covering the same topics, and "aims to ensure the responsible development of nanotechnology by providing guidance to the Federal agencies that produce and use scientific information for risk assessment and risk management."  The document identifies five primary EHS research areas of interest to NNI:  nanomaterial measurement, human exposure assessment, human health, environment, and risk assessment/management.  NNI notes that information derived from research in these five areas will be "applied to product life cycle, regulatory decision making, public outreach, and research planning."

Comments on the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy can be submitted through Jan. 6, 2011 by using the NNI's Strategy Portal at http://strategy.nano.gov/blog/generic/page/draft-nni-ehs-strategy.

Background

The 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy was created by soliciting input from the various federal agencies involved with NNI, academia, industry, advocacy groups, and the general public.  Input "included four public workshops, [and] reviews by the National Academies…and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology."  The report itself was drafted by a team of "over 70 members from 12 NNI agencies," and contains a chapter on each of the above-identified research areas.  The report also contains a chapter regarding the organization and dissemination of existing EHS information, and a closing chapter making recommendations for the timely and effective implementation of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy's goals.  Each chapter is briefly covered below.

Nanomaterial Measurement Infrastructure

The Nanomaterial Measurement Infrastructure chapter of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy identifies five primary research needs, each with subcomponents:  develop measurement tools for (i) determination of physico-chemical properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and nanotechnology-enabled products (NEPs); (ii) detection and monitoring of ENMs in realistic exposure conditions; (iii) evaluation of transformations of ENMs in relevant media; (iv) evaluation of biological responses to ENMs and NEPs; and (iv) evaluation of release mechanisms of ENMs from NEPs.

Forty two research projects at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Science Foundation (NSF) costing $11,081,000 are currently being undertaken to achieve these needs.

Human Exposure Assessment

The Human Exposure Assessment chapter of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy identifies four primary research needs, each with subcomponents:  understand processes and factors that determine exposures to nanomaterials; identify population groups exposed to engineered nanomaterials; characterize individual exposures to nanomaterials; and conduct health surveillance of exposed populations.

Fourteen research projects at Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), EPA, NIOSH and NSF costing $3,289,000 are currently being undertaken to achieve these needs.

Human Health

The Human Health chapter of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy identifies six primary research needs, each with subcomponents:  identify or develop appropriate, reliable, and reproducible in vitro and in vivo assays and models to predict in vivo human responses to ENMs; quantify and characterize ENMs in exposure matrices and biological matrices; understand the relationship between the physico-chemical properties of ENMs and their transport, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and body burden in the human body; understand the relationship between the physico-chemical properties of ENMs and uptake through the human port-of-entry tissues; determine the modes of action underlying the human biological response to ENMs at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, and whole-body levels; determine the extent to which life stage and/or susceptibility factors modulate health effects associated with exposure to ENMs and nanotechnology-enabled products and applications.

One hundred fifteen research projects at Department of Defense (DoD), CPSC, EPA, FDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIOSH, NIST, and NSF costing $41,610,000 are currently being undertaken to achieve these needs.

Environment

The Environment chapter of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy identifies five primary research needs, each with subcomponents:  understand environmental exposures through identification of principal sources of exposure and exposure routes; determine factors affecting the environmental transport of nanomaterials; understand the transformation of nanomaterials under different environmental conditions; understand the effects of engineered nanomaterials on individuals of a species and the applicability of testing schemes to measure effects; and evaluate the effects of engineered nanomaterials at the population, community, and ecosystem levels.

Twenty-seven research projects at EPA, NSF, DoD/United States Air Force, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Department of Energy, and NIST costing $43,682,000 are currently being undertaken to achieve these needs.

Risk Assessment and Risk Management Methods

The Risk Assessment and Risk Management Methods chapter of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy identifies five primary research needs, each with subcomponents:  incorporate relevant risk characterization information, hazard identification, exposure science, and risk modeling and methods into the development and evaluation of nanomaterials; understand, characterize, and control workplace exposures to nanomaterials; integrate life cycle considerations into risk assessment and risk management; integrate risk assessment into decision-making frameworks for risk management; and integrate and standardize risk communication within the risk management framework.

Forty-two research projects at EPA, FDA, NIOSH, and NSF costing $7,068,000 are currently being undertaken to achieve these needs.

Informatics and Modeling for NanoEHS Research

Regarding Informatics and Modeling for NanoEHS Research, the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy makes three primary recommendations:  improve quality and availability of data; expand theory, modeling; and simulation capabilities, and "[d]evelop computational models of [engineering nanomaterial] structure–property–activity relationships to support the design and development of [engineering nanomaterials] with maximum benefit and minimum risk to humans and the environment."

The Path Forward

Regarding "The Path Forward," the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy makes several recommendations, including prioritizing engineered nanoscale materials for EHS research; establishing "standard measurements, terminology, and nomenclature;" maximizing data quality; stratifying knowledge for risk assessment; and leveraging public-private partnerships.

Finally, the document closes with several recommendations for speeding the implementation of the 2010 NNI EHS Strategy:  increasing agency participation in NNI EHS research, naming an NNCO EHS coordinator, "exploiting media and networking opportunities," enabling "a broad base of nanoEHS research to support regulatory decision making," facilitating public-private partnerships, coordinating international nano-related EHS research activities, and adoptively managing and adapting the NNI Research Strategy as research progresses.

Sources:
  1. National Nanotechnology Initiative, 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Strategy, available at http://strategy.nano.gov/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Draft-2011-NNI-EHS-Research-Strategy.pdf (last visited Dec. 9, 2010).
  2. National Nanotechnology Initiative, Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research (2008), available at http://www.nano.gov/NNI_EHS_Research_Strategy.pdf (last visited Dec. 10, 2010).
Last updated: March 15, 2012
 

DOI: 10.4053/fe473-101215

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Tags: EHS + Regulation, Environment, Health, and Safety

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