On March 28, 2016, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) announced the release of a report entitled Quantifying Exposure to Engineered Nanomaterials (QEEN) from Manufactured Products: Addressing Environmental, Health, and Safety Implications. The report summarizes the July 7-8, 2015, QEEN workshop, which was sponsored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and co-hosted by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The main goals for the workshop were to assess progress in developing tools and methods for quantifying exposure to engineered nanomaterials across the product life cycle, and to identify new research needed to advance nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety exposure assessment for nanotechnology-enabled products. NNCO states that some of the main conclusions of the workshop include:
- State of the science: Significant progress has been made in the ability to quantify engineered nanomaterial exposures, including development of characterization tools and techniques, exposure assessment methodologies, and simulation and modeling tools. Current methods can detect nanoparticles well below known toxicity levels and beneath the threshold of economical and reasonable regulatory action.
- Incorporating “real world scenarios” in research: Exposure assessment needs have moved beyond methods and tools for fundamental laboratory studies on pristine, as-manufactured, engineered nanomaterials towards those needed to evaluate exposure risk under conditions that more closely mimic actual exposure scenarios. A better understanding of these “real world” scenarios, which consider the transformation products and interactions with environmental constituents, is still needed.
- Faster testing and results: Techniques for rapidly estimating exposures based on alternative testing models and high-throughput methods can enable timely decisions about the safe and sustainable design of nanotechnology-enabled products.
- Next steps: The community could focus on the complex issue of determining biomarkers of exposure linked to disease, which will require substantive private-public collaboration, partnership, and knowledge-sharing.