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VigilNanos - What are the risks of nanos for the environment?

What are the risks of nanos for the environment?

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What are the risks of nanos for the environment?

By AVICENN Team – Last Modified August 2022

Concerning potential effects on fauna and flora

Scientists, environmental protection associations and public administrations have called for better assessment of the environmental risks of nanomaterials. Indeed, studies carried out over the past ten years have reported worrying potential effects on the fauna and flora1Cf General Bibliography Nanomaterials and Environment.

Carbon nanotubes

At high concentrations, the effects of carbon nanoparticles (including C60 fullerenes and carbon nanotubes) were observed2See the report Toxicity and ecotoxicity of carbon nanotubes, ANSES, February 2011 (updated in November 2012 in the document News note, State of the art 2011-2012). See also in particular Carbon nanotubes: Impacts and behavior in the terrestrial ecosystem – A review, Line C et al., Carbon, 123; 767-785, July 2017:

  • on the Microorganisms : effects on the growth and viability of protozoa and other microorganisms,
  • on Plant : decrease in cell viability or the amount of chlorophyll in plants, impact (sometimes positive, sometimes negative) on seed germination and root growth
  • on aquatic organisms : decrease in the rate of fertilization in small crustaceans, malformations, delays in hatching or even increase in the mortality rate of zebrafish embryos
  • on the terrestrial organisms : reduced mobility or even death of fruit flies, decrease in the rate of reproduction of earthworms.
  • More recently, researchers have demonstrated a link between the incineration of thermoplastics containing carbon nanotubes and increased emissions and toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)3See Incinerating nano-enabled thermoplastics linked to increased PAH emissions and toxicity, Science for Environment policy, European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, 508, 24 May 2018.

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles

The dissemination of manufactured nanoparticles of titanium dioxide can be a source of toxicity to terrestrial and aquatic environments4See for example:
In French :
- Doc' en clip – the risk associated with nanoparticles contained in sunscreens (video), Riccardo Catalano, Aix-Marseille University, October 14, 2019
- Estimation and minimization of the risk associated with TiO2 nanoparticles used in sunscreens, presentation by Labille J, “Nano and cosmetics” technical day organized by the LNE, March 29, 2018
- Pollution of coastal waters by UV absorbers from sunscreens, generated by summer activities, Labille J, OHM Littoral Project, 2017
- Dynamics, reactivity and ecotoxicity of metal oxide nanoparticles in soils: impact on the functions and diversity of microbial communities, thesis by Marie Simonin (Microbial Ecology / UMR CNRS 5557 University Claude Bernard – Lyon 1), defended in October 2015
- Nano or not: TiO₂ is toxic to the environment, The Observatory of cosmetics, October (summary in French of the report " Environmental hazard of selected TiO₂ nanomaterials under consideration of relevant exposure scenarios“, Umwelt bundesamt, October 2014).
In English :
- Toxicity of TiO2 nanoparticles to the marine microalga Chaetoceros muelleri Lemmermann, 1898 under long-term exposure, Bameri L et al., Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 29:30427–30440, 2022
- Proteomics reveals multiple effects of titanium dioxide and silver nanoparticles in the metabolism of turbot, Scophthalmus maximus, Araújo MJ et al., Chemosphere 2022
Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and C60 fullerene nanoparticles, alone and in mixture, differently affect biomarker responses and proteome in the clam Ruditapes philippinarumMarisa I et al., Science of the Total Environment, 838 (2), September 2022
Toxicity of titanium nano-oxide nanoparticles (TiO2) on the pacific oyster, crassostrea gigas: immunity and antioxidant defense, Arash Javanshir Khoei and Kiadokht Rezaei, Toxin Reviews, 41, 2022
- Lethal and sub-lethal effects of nanosized titanium dioxide particles on Hydropsyche exocellata Dufour, 1841, Torres-Garcia D et al., Aquatic Insects – International Journal of Freshwater Entomology, 41 (1), 2020
- Silver and titanium nanomaterials present in wastewater have toxic effects on crustaceans and fish cells, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), November 2019
- TiO₂ nanoparticles in the marine environment: Impact on the toxicity of phenanthrene and Cd2 + to marine zooplankton Artemia salina , Jing Lu, Shengyan Tian, ​​Xiaohui Lv, Zuohong Chen, Baiyang Chen, Xiaoshan Zhu, Zhonghua Cai, Science of the Total Environment, February 15 2018
university, October 14, 2019
- Mixture toxicity effects and uptake of titanium dioxide (TiO₂) nanoparticles and 3,3′,4,4′-tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB77) in juvenile brown trout following co-exposure via the diet, Lammel T et al., Aquat Toxicol., 213:105195, Aug 2019
- Evaluation of the effects of titanium dioxide and aluminum oxide nanoparticles through tarsal contact exposure in the model insect Oncopeltus fasciatus, López-Muñoz D. et al., Science of the Total Environment, 666: 759-765, May 2019
- How titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do affect soil microorganism activity?, Kizildag N et al., European Journal of Soil Biology, 91:18-24, March-April 2019
- Titanium dioxide nanoparticles impaired both photochemical and non-photochemical phases of photosynthesis in wheat, Dias MC, Protoplasm, 256(1): 69–78, January 2019
- The effects and the potential mechanism of environmental transformation of metal nanoparticles on their toxicity in organisms, Zhang J et al., About. Science: Nano, 5: 2482-2499, 2018
- Transfer and Ecotoxicity of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles in the Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems: A Microcosm Study, Vijayaraj V et al., Environmental Science and Technology, 52(21): 12757-12764, Oct 2018
- TiO₂ nanoparticles enhance bioaccumulation and toxicity of heavy metals in Caenorhabditis elegans via modification of local concentrations during the sedimentation process, Wang J et al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 162(30): 160-169, Oct 2018
- Toxicological impact of TiO₂ nanoparticles on Eudrilus euginiae, Priyanka KP et al., IET Nanobiotechnology, 12 (5):579, Aug 2018
- Scientists find titanium dioxide from sunscreen is polluting beaches Scientists find titanium dioxide from sunscreen is polluting beaches, presentation by Labille J., Goldschmidt Conference, August 2018

The nanoparticles contained in sunscreens are released into bathing water5Researchers from CEREGE in France measured the titanium concentration in the water of three beaches in Marseille and estimated the weight of TiO54 released in the two summer months at 2 kilos per day for a small beach, See:
- Doc' en clip – the risk associated with nanoparticles contained in sunscreens (video), Riccardo Catalano, Aix-Marseille University, October 14, 2019,
and lead to an increase in the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, a molecule with toxic potential, especially for phytoplankton which is the staple food of marine animals6In 2014, Spanish researchers thus estimated that tourist activity on a Mediterranean beach during a summer day can release around 4 kg of titanium dioxide nanoparticles into the water, and lead to an increase of 270 nM/day of the concentration of hydrogen peroxide (a molecule with toxic potential, in particular for phytoplankton which constitutes the basic food of marine animals, See:
- Nano UV screens: a danger to marine life, The Cosmetics Observatory, September 5 2014

These nanoparticles can also come from toothpastes, industrial products such as paints, lacquers, paper, as well as photocatalytic processes such as water treatment7See:
– Keller, AA, McFerran, S., Lazareva, A. & Suh, S. Global life cycle releases of engineered nanomaterials. J. Nanoparticle Res. 15, 1–17 (2013)
– Wang, C., Liu, H., Liu, Y., He, G. & Jiang, C. Comparative activity of TiO2 microspheres and P25 powder for organic degradation: Implicative importance of structural defects and organic adsorption. Appl. Surf. Science., 319, 2–7 (2014).
– Mitrano, DM, Motellier, S., Clavaguera, S. & Nowack, B. Review of nanomaterial aging and transformations through the life cycle of nano-enhanced products. About. Int. 77, 132-147 (2015).
– Wen, J. et al. Photocatalysis fundamentals and surface modification of TiO2 nanomaterials. Chin. J.Catal. 36, 2049-2070 (2015).
(among others). A study also shows that TiO2 nanoparticles lead to strong disturbances of the nitrogen cycle and a change in the structure of the bacterial community in agricultural soil, even at a realistically low concentration (1 mg kg-1 of dry soil).8See: Simonin, M. et al. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles strongly impact soil microbial function by affecting archaeal nitrifiers. Science. Rep. 6, 33643; doi:10.1038/srep33643 (2016).

Nanosilver and bactericidal/biocidal nanomaterials

Hundreds of tons of silver nanoparticles are produced each year in the world for their antibacterial or antifungal properties, despite worrying environmental risks, in particular for aquatic microorganisms, flora and fauna9See for example:
- Proteomics reveals multiple effects of titanium dioxide and silver nanoparticles in the metabolism of turbot, Scophthalmus maximus, Araújo MJ et al., Chemosphere 2022
- The Biological Cost of Antimicrobial Nanosilver Exposure, AzoNano, May 30, 2022 > Whole-lake nanosilver additions reduce northern pike (esox lucius) growth, Slongo BD et al., Science of the Total Environment, 838(2), 56219, September 2022
- Comparative evaluation on the toxic effect of silver (Ag) and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles on different trophic levels in aquatic ecosystems: A review, Sibiya A et al., Journal of applied toxicology 2022
- Nanoparticles disrupt algae, University of Geneva, November 25, 2020 (Metabolomics for early detection of stress in freshwater alga Poterioochromonas malhamensis exposed to silver nanoparticles, Liu W et al., Scientific Reports, 10, November 2020)
- How Nanosilver Gets Into Our Freshwater, and What We Need To Do About It, Lauren Hayhusrt, Fisheries Research Biologist, IISD Experimental Lakes Area, April 16, 2020
- Silver Uncontrolled: How nanosilver gets into our fresh water, and what we need to do about it, Lauren Hayhusrt, Fisheries Research Biologist, Experimental Lakes Area, November 29, 2019
- Comparative multi-generation study on long-term effects of pristine and wastewater-borne silver and titanium dioxide nanoparticles on key lifecycle parameters in Daphnia magna, Hartmann S et al., Nano Impact, 14, February 2019
- Phytotoxicity of Silver Nanoparticles to Aquatic Plants, Algae, and Microorganisms, Domingo G et al., Nanomaterials in Plants, Algae and Microorganisms – Concepts and Controversies, Volume 2: 143-168, 2019
– France Diplomacy, Silver nanoparticles are toxic to aquatic organisms, 26 October 2018; Waterborne exposure of adult zebrafish to silver nanoparticles and to ionic silver results in differential silver accumulation and effects at cellular and molecular levels, Lacave JM et al., Science of the Total Environment, 642: 1209-1220, Nov 2018
- Accumulation of Silver in Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) and Northern Pike (Esox lucius) From a Lake Dosed with Nanosilver, Jonathan D. Martin, Paul C. Frost, Holger Hintelmann, Karla Newman, Michael J. Paterson, Lauren Hayhurst, Michael D. Rennie, Margerite A. Xenopoulos, Viviane Yargeau, Chris D. Metcalfe, Environmental Science & Technology 2018
and soil microorganisms10See in particular:
- Nanopore-based metagenomic analysis of the impact of nanoparticles on soil microbial communities, Chavan S et al., heliyon, 8(6), June 2022
- Destruction of Cell Topography, Morphology, Membrane, Inhibition of Respiration, Biofilm Formation, and Bioactive Molecule Production by Nanoparticles of Ag, ZnO, CuO, TiO2, and Al2O3 toward Beneficial Soil Bacteria, Ahmed B et al., ACS Omega, 5, 14, 7861-7876, 2020
- Effect of silver nanoparticle contaminated biosolids on the soil microbial community, Dias Samarajeewa A et al., Nano Impact, 14, February 2019
, and also health risks (argyrism at high doses11The colloidal silver in question, RFJ, November 11, 2021and especially bacterial resistance principally).

In addition, nano-silver harms certain bacteria which today play an essential role inin wastewater treatment plants : the consequences are still poorly assessed, but concerns are growing about the problems that could arise in the medium term to guarantee water quality.

The many scientific uncertainties that remain leave the field open to differences in risk assessment by scientists and even real controversies. Besides the problems it could cause in sewage treatment plants, nanosilver, for example, is singled out by some experts who suspect it of increasing the risk of the emergence of multi-resistant bacteria to antibiotics, which others dispute.

Zinc oxide nanoparticles

In 2020, work carried out by French and Spanish researchers showed that zinc oxide nanoparticles are absorbed by reeds, with various toxic effects as a result (reduction of their growth, chlorophyll content, photosynthetic efficiency and transpiration)12See Stable Zn isotopes reveal the uptake and toxicity of zinc oxide engineered nanomaterials in Phragmites australis, BioRxiv, Caldelas C et al., 2020,
-For other effects of zinc oxide nanoparticles on the environment, see also ZnO and TiO2 nanoparticles alter the ability of Bacillus subtilis to fight against stress, Eymard-Vernain E et al., PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2020, 15 (10), 2020

In July 2019, ECHA issues a decision in which it considers 13See footnote 3 nano like zinc oxide "very toxic to aquatic life, with effects that persist over time".
In 2018, the European SOS-Nano project demonstrated that zinc oxide nanoparticles cause a high level of toxicity in oyster larvae, given that seawater does not prevent the dissolution14See The true effects of nanoparticles in their environment, Cordis, March 2018.

In 2020, work carried out by French and Spanish researchers showed that zinc oxide nanoparticles are absorbed by reeds, with various toxic effects at stake (reduction of their growth, chlorophyll content, efficacy photosynthetic and transpiration)15
- Sunscreens containing zinc oxide nanoparticles can trigger oxidative stress and toxicity to the marine copepod Tigriopus japonicus, Stella WY Wong, Guang-Jie Zhou, Priscilla TY Leung, Jeonghoon Han, Jae-Seong Lee, Kevin WH Kwok, Kenneth MY Leung, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 154, May 2020
- Stable Zn isotopes reveal the uptake and toxicity of zinc oxide engineered nanomaterials in Phragmites australisBioRxiv, Caldelas C et al., 2020

Other studies also reportworrying effects on the environment16See for example:
- Comparative evaluation on the toxic effect of silver (Ag) and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles on different trophic levels in aquatic ecosystems: A review, Sibiya A et al., Journal of applied toxicology 2022
- Destruction of Cell Topography, Morphology, Membrane, Inhibition of Respiration, Biofilm Formation, and Bioactive Molecule Production by Nanoparticles of Ag, ZnO, CuO, TiO2, and Al2O3 toward Beneficial Soil Bacteria, Ahmed B et al., ACS Omega, 5, 14, 7861-7876, 2020
- Effects of zinc-oxide nanoparticles on soil, plants, animals and soil organisms: A review, VD Rajput et al.Environmental Nanotechnology, Monitoring & ManagementMay 2018
- Effects of ZnO nanoparticles in the Caspian roach (Rutilus rutilus caspicus), Khosravi-Katuli K et al., Science of the Total Environment, 626: 30-41, Jun 2018
- Toxic effects of different types of zinc oxide nanoparticles on algae, plants, invertebrates, vertebrates and microorganisms, J. Hou et al., Chemosphere, 193: 852-860, February 2018
- Chronic dietary toxicity of zinc oxide nanoparticles in common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.): Tissue accumulation and physiological responses, Latifeh C et al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 147: 110-116, January 2018
- Synthesis Approaches of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles: The Dilemma of Ecotoxicity, ANUHaq et al.Journal of Nanomaterials 2017
- Zinc oxide nanoparticles induce oxidative DNA damage and ROS-triggered mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in zebrafish embryos, X.Zhao et al.Aquatic ToxicologyNovember 2016
- Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles Affect Biomass Accumulation and Photosynthesis in Arabidopsis, X.Wang et al.Frontiers in Plant Science, January 12 2016
- Effects of Natural Organic Matter Properties on the Dissolution Kinetics of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles, C. Jiang, GR Aiken, H. Hsu-Kim, Environmental Science & Technology 2015
- Effects of zinc oxide nanoparticles on bioaccumulation and oxidative stress in different organs of tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), H. Kaya et al.Environmental Toxicology and PharmacologyNovember 2015

Silica nanoparticles

Silica nanoparticles can also have harmful effects on the environment, especially on aquatic fauna17See for example:
- Aquatic ecotoxicity of manufactured silica nanoparticles: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Book F and Backhaus T, Science of the Total Environment, 806(4)4, February 2022
Physiological and Behavioral Effects of SiO2 Nanoparticle Ingestion on Daphnia magna, Kim Y et al., Micromachinery (Basel), 12(9): 1105, September 2021

Specific risks of nanomaterials in water

We already know that nanomaterials or nanomaterial residues can penetrate and accumulate in different aquatic species, be transferred from generation to generation and move up the food chain.

Risks as mobile as nanomaterials

Due to their small size, nanomaterials have a strong propensity to disperse and can reach places inaccessible to larger particles. But to what extent and in what form(s)? Many aspects of the future of nanomaterials are still largely unknown: the persistence, transformation, mobility and accumulation of nanomaterials in the environment are very difficult to understand.

We know that nanomaterials or residues of nanomaterials can penetrate and accumulate in different bacterial, plant, animal, terrestrial and/or aquatic species, be transmitted to the next generation, and go up the food chain. But these data are still very patchy, despite the development of research on this subject.

Risks related to interaction with other pollutants

Nanomaterials can increase the dissemination of other pollutants

We already know that nanomaterials or their residues can cross the wall of plant cells and bring in external molecules (this is the effect " horse de Troy »), it is feared that they promote the transport of pollutants (heavy metals or pesticides for example)18See for example:
- Like a Trojan horse, graphene oxide can act as a carrier of organic pollutants to fish, Campusa (University of the Basque country), May 2021 and Uptake and effects of graphene oxide nanomaterials alone and in combination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in zebrafish, Martinez-Alvarez I et al., Science of the Total Environment, 775, June 2021
- Fate of single walled carbon nanotubes in wetland ecosystems, Schierz A et al., About. Science: Nano, 2014 (and associated press release: Nanoparticles accumulate quickly in wetlands: Aquatic food chains might be harmed by molecules 'piggybacking' on carbon nanoparticles, Science Daily, October 1, 2014
- Carbon nanotubes as molecular transporters for walled plant cells. Liu Q, Chen B, Wang Q, et al. in Nano Lett., 9(3): 1007-10, 2009
- Toxicity and bioaccumulation of xenobiotic organic compounds in the presence of aqueous suspensions of aggregates of nano-C60, Baun, A., et al., in Aquatic Toxicology, 86: 379-387, 2008
- Enhanced bioaccumulation of cadmium in carp in the presence of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, Zhang et al., Chemosphere 67(1):160-6, 2007

Increased risks due to the interactions of nanomaterials with each other or with other pollutants

How not to fear also a “cocktail effect” with certain molecules? Nanomaterials, combined with other substances, can become (even) more dangerous.

Many uncertainties still

However, certain difficulties and uncertainties explain why the results are not generalizable and should be considered with caution. In particular because:

For now, scientists have indeed very limited knowledge of the types of nanomaterials that are incorporated about products currently on the market, and a fortiori residues degradation of nanomaterials released into the environment throughout the “life cycle” of these products; they also don't know a lot about mobility and transformations suffered by the latter in the environment: here again many parameters come into play, such as the degree of acidity or salinity of the water, for example.

However, the situation is improving (at the methodological level, of course), with new analytical methods to study the effects of nanoparticles on ecosystems19See for example:
- Contribution of mesocosm testing to a single-step and exposure-driven environmental risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials, Auffan M et al., Nano impact, 13: 66-69, 2019
- Clarification of methodical questions regarding the investigation of nanomaterials in the environment, UBA, December 2017
- Ecotoxicology of nanomaterials: new analytical approaches, Camille Larue, Scientific watch bulletin (BVS), ANSES, September 2015
– The Microbial Ecology Laboratory of Lyon 1 University has set up studies on the Dynamics, reactivity and ecotoxicity of metal oxide nanoparticles in soils: impact on the functions and diversity of microbial communities
- The project MESONNET of the CEREGE, initiated in 2012, thus contributed to studying the potential consequences of nanoparticles on ecosystems by using “mesocosms”.

In addition, the harmful effects of nanosilver on plants and microorganisms mentioned above were also observed under “realistic” experimental conditions.

In this context, how can the precautionary principle be applied?

Faced with the lack of certainty and guarantees on the harmlessness of nanomaterials for the environment, the precautionary principle applies, enshrined in the Constitution since 2005:

« When the occurrence of damage, although uncertain in the current state of scientific knowledge, could seriously and irreversibly affect the environment, the public authorities will ensure, by application of the precautionary principle, and in their areas of responsibility , the implementation of risk assessment procedures and the adoption of provisional and proportionate measures to prevent the occurrence of the damage..

How can it be applied to the case of nanomaterials for which many “scientific barriers” remain which currently prevent precise knowledge of the risks involved?

Here is some possible solutions – sometimes complementary, sometimes mutually exclusive.

Conduct additional studies. Yes, but which ones and at what price? Financed by taxpayers and/or manufacturers?

Many actors have called for additional studies to be carried out in order to fill in the remaining uncertainties on the risks/safety of nanomaterials. However, is this achievable within a reasonable timeframe knowing that new and ever more complex nanomaterials are produced and marketed every day? Furthermore, there is the question of the manufacturers themselves bearing the cost of this research.

Limit the commercialization / uses of nanomaterials

To date, except the European Biocides Regulation which provides for a specific authorization procedure, no legislation restricts the release of nanomaterials to the source. The only legislation implemented in 2013 by France (r-nano) only requires companies to declare each year the quantities and uses of nanomaterials that they produce, distribute or import, but it does not, however, provide for any specific provision aimed at reducing the release of nanomaterials into the environment or preventing the associated risks .
According to a growing number of associations and scientific experts20When enough is enough, J. Hansen & A. Baun, Nature Nanotechnology, 7, 409-411 (2012), it is however urgent to act because large quantities of nanomaterials are released into the environment and mixed with the hundreds of thousands of synthetic chemical substances which are already present there. It's necessary avoid repeating past mistakes by making evaluations of nanomaterials mandatory before they are marketed and by only authorizing nanomaterials for specific and essential uses for which the benefit/risk proves favourable.

Develop the eco-design of nanomaterials?

Scientists are helping to implement an eco-design of nanomaterials: the aim is to minimize toxicity and exposure at the different stages of the life cycle nanomaterials by controlling the methods of synthesis, storage and/or integration of nanomaterials in the final products. Can the challenge be met – both technically and financially? When will the projects currently being deployed bear fruit? And with what possibility of control as to the real harmlessness of the nanomaterials developed? With what scope and what limits? This aspect is developed in our sheet on the “safe by design” nano approach.

Control industrial sources of nanomaterial emissions

And even if instruments and methods for detecting, measuring, monitoring and controlling nanomaterials in the environment still need to be improved, it is already technically possible to take and store samples for analysis when these instruments and methods are developed.21See Nanomaterials: A review of definitions, applications and health effects. How to implement safe development, Eric Gaffet, Physical Reports, Volume 12, Number 7, Pages 648-658, September 2011
See in particular: ADEME, INERIS & CEREGE, Methodology for assessing the environmental footprint around sites producing or using nanomaterials – NanoIdent, Aguerre-Chariol O et al., March 2019
. An essential step to put in place as soon as possible.

Because of all these “delayed effects” risks and all these uncertainties, it is urgent to deploy not only research efforts (with a financial contribution from companies who produce and use nanomaterials) but also information and training actions (for health professionals but also public and private decision-makers), as well as concrete preventive and precautionary measures.

Action 13 of the National Health-Environment Plan (PNSE 4) published in 2021 is in line with this, but there is a lot to do, little time and money.

Everyone has a role to play: consumers, associations, unions, public authorities, companies, media, etc. AVICENN does its part… help us speed things up!

The environmental issue, the gateway to a more global approach?

The physicist Richard Jones, pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom), challenged the scientific community in 2009 by insisting on the fact that theenvironmental issues lifted by nanos go beyond the mere field of toxicology and technical, and confront us with more global questions: who controls these technologies, who benefits from them? according to which governance22Richard Jones, 'It's not just about nanotoxicology', Nature Nanotechnology, vol 4, october 2009 ? Due to uncertainties regarding the effectiveness and potential severity of environmental effects caused throughout the life cycle nanomaterials, it is a question of considering the questions of their reversibility and our ability to remedy any problems they may cause.

As far as reversibility is concerned, it is not only technical considerations that must be taken into account, emphasizes Richard Jones again: our experience with other technologies shows that companies, once committed to a specific path, can have great difficulty reversing, not only for technical reasons, but also for economic or socio-political reasons.

The question ofusefulness (or futility) of the use of different nanomaterials arises. Likewise, the question of autonomy or dependence on complex technology : what alternative solutions exist for the expected effect? What means are devoted to improving them?

Ultimately, it is the functioning of our democracy that is at stake here : who decides what at what time life cycle innovation? Which actors are involved at each stage of the cycle? Have they been able to express an opinion and is it taken into account when a real choice is still possible, as required by the Aarhus Convention ? With what ethics?

Elsewhere on the web

A remark, a question? This sheet produced by AVICENN is intended to be supplemented and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

The next nano appointments

“Nano and Health” dialogue committee (ANSES, Maisons-Alfort)
Dialogue Committee
  • 14th meeting of the “nano and health” dialogue committee
  • Organizer: ANSES
  • Website :
Nanomaterials, how to identify them more efficiently? (LNE, Paris)
  • Technical Day
  • Organizer: National Metrology and Testing Laboratory (LNE)
  • On the agenda: identification of nanomaterials, recent technological innovations in terms of particle size characterization, areas for progress to be considered 
  • Upcoming program
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NanoSafe conference 2023 (CEA, Grenoble)
  • 8th International Conference on Health Issues for a Responsible Approach to Nanomaterials
  • June 5-9, 2023
  • Organizer: Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA)
  • Website :…  

File initially posted online in September 2012

Notes & references

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