Germans focus on nanoparticle safety

A three-year program dubbed NanoCare to develop measurement and test methods for analyzing the safety of nanomaterials started in March in Germany. Supported by €5 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and €2.6 million from industry, it brings together 13 companies (including BASF, Bayer, Degussa and Solvay), universities and research institutes to investigate the effects of nanoparticles on human health and the environment.

Prof. Dr. Harald Krug of the Karlsruhe Research Center, who is coordinating the effort, explains the motivation for the program: “New technologies can also pose risks for health and the environment… These are precisely the issues dealt with in the NanoCare program.” Dr. Harald Pielartzik, head of the Nanotechnology Working Group at Bayer, adds, “NanoCare will provide a set of key basic principles for pioneering materials research and support the responsible use of innovative nanomaterials.”

Concerns over the safety of nanomaterials also have been raised in the U.S. For example, the EPA, following submission of an overview document last November, has been thinking through how best to obtain information from regulated companies and how to structure the in-depth follow-up, notes Lynn Bergeson, CP’s regulatory columnist. EPA expects to begin calling companies shortly and to submit an “information collection request” later this year, she adds.

Meanwhile, NanoCare is focusing on eight “work packages,” notes Krug. These basically provide a framework for looking at particle synthesis and characterization, identifying hazards (in vitro and in vivo), and developing a database. The program also intends to create a web portal so the database will be available to the general public via the Internet.

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