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December 17th, 2009
We, the undersigned, would like to draw the attention of the nanotoxicology community to how the term "nanoparticles" is being somewhat indiscriminately used, especially in the titles of scientific papers and in statements to the press. This has been common in the past without stating the nature of the nanoparticle being studied. Five years into serious hazard-based toxicology of manufactured nanoparticles and 20 years into the toxicology of environmental ultrafines, we know that there is a clear spectrum of toxicity associated with nanoparticles, and that failing to differentiate between different chemistries, sizes, shapes and other attributes can cause confusion. We can no more generalize about ‘nanoparticles' than we can about ‘particles' more widely.
No self-respecting researcher would dream of publishing results showing, for example, that quartz was a genotoxin under the title ‘Particles are genotoxic'. Generalizations like these are unhelpful and unscientific, and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. Exactly the same applies for research into the toxicology and potential impacts of nanoparticles. Yet in 2009, papers are still appearing that explore the activity of a small range of nanoparticle types, yet uses the term ‘nanoparticle' in its broadest sense in the title as though it was a generically useful term representing one class of hazard.
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