Home > Press > Nano Coalition Unveils Environmental, Health and Safety Database
International Council on Nanotechnology Collects Diverse Scientific Findings
Nano Coalition Unveils Environmental, Health and Safety Database
Houston, TX | August 19, 2005
The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON)
and Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology
(CBEN) today launched the world's first online database of scientific
findings related to the benefits and risks of nanotechnology. The database
can be accessed at the ICON website.
This environmental health and safety (EHS) database marks the first effort
to integrate the vast and diverse scientific literature on the impacts of
nanoparticles, which are tiny pieces of matter with dimensions measuring
between 1 and 100 nanometers and containing between tens and thousands of
atoms. (One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter or approximately 60,000
times smaller than the width of a human hair.) The database is the result of
the collected efforts of Rice researchers, the chemical industry and the
U.S. Department of Energy. This database will be updated and enhanced over
the next year.
Many nanoparticles exhibit unique chemical, electrical, optical and physical
properties by virtue of their size, shape or surface characteristics. The
great diversity of nanoparticle types that have already been created has
made it difficult for scientists to make general statements about the
potential safety hazards that nanoparticles might pose to living organisms.
This problem is exacerbated by the limited scientific data on the topic.
While there is a significant body of research on the impacts of incidental
nanoparticles - a class of particles that are the unintentional byproduct of
another process, such as combustion, and are often referred to as ultrafine
particles - the specific effects of only a few engineered nanomaterials have
been studied. This shortfall in scientific knowledge is beginning to be
addressed through targeted research funding programs and other initiatives.
However, nanotechnology's breadth poses unique challenges in this regard,
and knowing which questions new research monies should be targeted toward
requires an understanding of what is already known.
"An informed decision about how to ensure the safety of nanomaterials
requires a comprehensive review of where we are and where we've been with
prior research," said Dr. Jack Solomon, chairman of the Chemical Industry
Vision2020 Technology Partnership. "By gathering findings that are scattered
throughout the literatures of biomedical application developers,
toxicologists, environmental engineers and nanomaterials scientists, we are
helping researchers and government funding agencies to see the big picture."
This need to collect currently available knowledge on EHS issues of
nanoscale materials was recognized by the Environmental Safety and Health
working group of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Chemical Industry
Consultative Board for Advancing Nanotechnology (NNI-ChI CBAN). The NNI-ChI
CBAN working group (which includes EHS specialists at several chemical
companies, Rice faculty fellow Dr. Kristen Kulinowski and contacts from
multiple government agencies) commissioned Dr. Tim Borges and Ms. LeeAnn
Wilson at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to begin compiling a database
through a Chemicals Plus project of the Industrial Technologies Program of
the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Researchers at Rice helped analyze the material and make the findings
Web-accessible and will maintain the database.
In addition to standard search terms such as author, year and keywords,
papers in the database will be able to be sorted according to the type of
particle and the type of experiment - whether it measured a hazard or the
potential for exposure, for instance. In addition, users can find out
whether the nanoparticle was intentionally engineered or is the incidental
byproduct of another process, like the ultrafine particles that result from
combustion of diesel fuel. These functions will be added to the database in
the next few months. For now, the database archives articles that have
appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In the future, a separate
archive of policy reports and commentaries on key papers in the field will
The next phase of the project involves organizing the information within the
database and providing analyses that are accessible to both nontechnical
audiences and the research community.
"There is tremendous added value in structuring the database so that anyone
with a Web browser, regardless of their level of scientific training, can
grasp the current state of scientific understanding regarding this
rapidly-evolving field," stated Kristen Kulinowski, executive director of
CBEN and of ICON. "One of ICON's goals is to provide people with the best
information available. Anyone wishing to investigate the current state of
knowledge regarding the health and environmental implications of
nanomaterials will be able to do so on this Web site."
The freely available database is maintained by ICON as a public service.
ICON, a coalition of academic, industrial, governmental and civil society
organizations, is administered by CBEN.
The International Council on Nanotechnology is a multi-stakeholder group
whose mission is to assess, communicate, and reduce nanotechnology
environmental and health risks while maximizing its societal benefit. Our
efforts are founded on the belief that partnership activities, between
governments, industry, academia and non-governmental organizations are the
key to an environmentally responsible nanotechnology industry.
For more information, please visit icon.rice.edu
The Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology is a National
Science Foundation Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center dedicated to
developing sustainable nanotechnologies that improve human health and the
environment. Located at Rice University in Houston, CBEN is a leader in
ensuring that nanotechnology develops responsibly and with strong public
For more information, please visit cben.rice.edu
About Rice University:
Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and research universities. It is distinguished by its: size - 2,850 undergraduates and 1,950 graduate students; selectivity - 10 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources - an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 6-to-1, and the fifth largest endowment per student among American universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work. Rice's wooded campus is located in the nation's fourth largest city and on America's South Coast.
For more information, please visit www.rice.edu
Copyright © Rice University
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