Highlights from Nanosafe 2018 Conference in Grenoble

The sixth international conference on health and safety issues related to nanomaterials for a socially responsible approach, nanoSAFE 2018, was held 5-9 November 2018 in Minatec-Grenoble, France.

The conference gathered over 300 researchers and experts working in the field of nanosafety. The topics included measurement and characterization of nano-objects, exposure, manufactured nano-objects and health hazards, risks, regulation and standardization as well as air pollution and urban particles, hence moving the discussion beyond manufactured nanomaterials.

Elina Drakvik represented SweNanoSafe at the conference with the poster entitled “SweNanoSafe – towards a multistakeholder dialogue in nanosafety”. Some conference highlights are summarized below.

Current progress and future research

The opening keynote speech was given by Teresa Fernandes from Heriot-Watt University addressing exposure and hazard assessment of nanomaterials. She concluded that in the recent years, significant progress has been made within the nanosafety field, although some organisms and nanomaterials have been better studied than others. There is a good knowledge base regarding the factors that influence the toxic potential of nanomaterials, including size, shape, composition, surface charge etc. There is also a better understanding of the need for an integrated approach, addressing the entire life-cycle of nanomaterials and balancing it with socio-economic analysis. The future aspects and needs include streamlining hazard testing in order to improve efficiency and application of new methods for risk assessment. On the other hand, the complexity and wide variety of nanomaterials provide a challenge to these streamlining efforts. However, several EU-funded projects are currently addressing grouping to facilitate the assessment of nanomaterials.

Georgios Katalagarianakis from the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, gave some preliminary insights into the next Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, and the plans concerning Cluster 3 – Digital and Industry, which does not refer to nanomaterials specifically, but to “advanced materials”. Broadly speaking, “advanced materials” could cover for example materials with new properties, integrated material processes and production, characterization and modelling, analysis of trends in “advanced materials”, and solutions for users. Furthermore, Katalagarianakis summarized that the main directions for the remaining nanotechnology and nanosafety area (NMPB) calls include integration of scientific, regulatory and market phases and strong support to the EU and other international regulatory bodies (such as OECD, ISO and CEN). Open access and open data access will be applied, highlighting also the respect of ontology and data logging format to enable comparison and sharing of data. Cross-project collaboration is considered necessary and international collaboration is highly encouraged. The topics of the 2019 calls have been published in the 2018-2020 Work Programme. Finally, he informed about the recent discussions on Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda and Safe Innovation Approach (SIA).

Innovation and risk governance

Anthony Bochon, Partner at Everest, talked about a transition towards a “comply and explain” approach, which companies will be facing in the future. He highlighted the need not only to comply and implement the regulatory requirements, but to fully understand the underlying purpose and objectives of regulations and standards and to be able to communicate in a transparent way to consumers and other stakeholders. Addressing safety aspects early in the innovation process, already at the design stage, is one of the cornerstones of this approach. According to Bochon, a legal definition to safe-by-design at the EU level could be possible, if using and mimicking the principles behind the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR , EU 2016/679) that actually implies privacy-by-design.

Keld Alstrup Jensen from the Danish Research Center for the Working Environment gave a keynote speech on nano-risk innovation governance and the current to near-future risk assessment and management methods for manufactured nanomaterials. CALIBRATE, an EU-funded research project, is developing a “system of systems” based on a suite of tested and calibrated manufactured nano-specific risk prioritisation and control banding tools.

This is needed as the current REACH compliance models are not well-suited or validated for risk assessment of manufactured nanomaterials. The project has also built a “nano-risk radar”, which contributes to the nano-risk governance framework. It is a web-based tool to facilitate horizon scanning and the monitoring of nanosafety-related topics.

Ultrafine particles and air pollution

Air pollution was one of the “hot topics” of the conference. David Pui from the University of Minnesota spoke about green technologies and disruptive innovation, giving an example of the world’s biggest air purifier, the Solar-Assisted Large-Scale Cleaning System (SALSCS) built in China, with somewhat encouraging results. In addition to technological solutions, Pui reminded us about the role played by regulatory restrictions and standards in driving improved air quality in several cities in the USA.

Several speakers focused on various aspects of air pollution and urban particles. The respiratory and cardiovascular health effects from air pollution have been proven in various studies. Ulla Vogel from the Danish Research Center for the Working Environment, highlighted in her presentation that cardiovascular disease constitutes a major fraction of preventable air pollution-induced morbidity. It is also a “nano issue”, meaning that smaller particles (ultra-fine particles), and more particles per mass unit, and larger surface area per mass unit, result in more alveolar deposition after inhalation (the alveolar region of the lungs is important for the toxicological assessment of inhaled pollutants). This, in turn, is linked to acute phase response that seems to be causally related to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

It was discussed that in addition to the respiratory and cardiovascular effects of air pollution, some studies have shown effects on for example fetal development and neurodevelopment. There seemed to be a sense of urgency among the speakers and participants that ultra-fine particles and combustion sources should be urgently targeted from a public health perspective and average exposure to these particles reduced (not only peaks of exposure). It was noted that the issue of air pollution is politically challenging as actions are needed on various levels. The discussion about potential solutions to mitigate and address the effects of air pollution included suggestions on primary solutions, consisting of source control and regulations on pollutants. Various intermediate solutions could include targeting urban planning and investments to public spaces (including green spaces), low emission zones (such as traffic restriction areas), sharing of vehicles (transportation), air quality certificates for all vehicles, promoting awareness as well as culture of mobility that is less dependent on cars, reducing wood heating, and amplifying green innovations.

National ”nanoregisters”

The conference programme was packed with interesting discussions and presentations, including a presentation by Ekatherine Lagovardos on behalf of the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI). She introduced the new rules which require companies to submit data on nanomaterials in chemical products to KEMI’s Products Register. With these new rules, KEMI aims to collect information about the quantities and types of nanomaterials in Sweden, also where and how they’re used.

The national registers and actions were also brought up during a debate on the French precautionary approach on titanium dioxide (TiO2) in food. France has banned the titanium dioxide as food additive, E171 [for an update, follow this link].

 

Källa: Elina Drakvik, on behalf of SweNanoSafe

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Illustration: Sakkmesterke, Adobe Stock

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