The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering were commissioned to investigate whether or not nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new environmental, ethical, health and safety or social issues, which are not covered by current regulations. Their report was published on the 29th July 2004. Particular emphasis is placed on the need to further our understanding of the human health and environmental effects posed by free manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes, with a view to designing and then implementing appropriate regulation. The report set out a risk based approach for regulatory research, with knowledge gaps discussed in terms of its two key stages: (1) the identification of hazard (the potential of the substance in question to cause harm); and (2) a structured approach to determining likely exposure to the identified hazard.
Defra, as chair of the Government’s Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group (NRCG), needs to understand more comprehensively the existing state of knowledge in these two interdependent, regulatory focussed areas with a view to letting further detailed research contracts to fill the key data gaps. The focus of this contract is exposure, with hazard issues being addressed separately in a second scoping specification.
The aims of the proposed work are to:
· produce a summary report of the information available on:
1. measurement and detection technologies for nanoparticles and nanotubes, including those properties most likely to reflect their toxicity, such as surface area and potential to release free radicals (indoor and outdoor environments);
2. routes of exposure to human and non-human receptors for nanoparticles and nanotubes (indoor and outdoor environments);
3. the transport and behaviour of nanoparticles and nanotubes in air (indoor and outdoor), water and soil, including their interactions with other chemicals;
4. whether existing protocols for estimating environmental and human exposure, and monitoring of chemicals in the environment are relevant for nanoparticles and nanotubes; and
5. whether existing degradation models can be extended to nanomaterials in fixed form with a view to establishing the potential for release during a product’s life-cycle;
· to provide prioritised recommendations on each of the above points, setting out which are key areas for additional research to help develop policy and appropriate regulation.