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NNI nanoEHS Workshop Brief: Nanomaterials and Human Health & Instrumentation, Metrology, and Analytical Methods, November 17-18, 2009

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On November 17 and 18 the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) held the third of four workshops in its nanoEHS series. The series is an effort to review the state of research in what is now the NNI’s fastest growing program component area: Environmental, Health, and Safety Research.

The November workshop focused on Nanomaterials and Human Health & Instrumentation, Metrology, and Analytical Methods. Over 150 participants from academia, industry, government, advocacy, and the general public attended the two-day workshop in Arlington, VA.

The workshop opened with a plenary session outlining three critical research areas to be discussed. Eric Grulke (University of Kentucky) presented on the challenges of characterizing of engineered nanomaterials; David Grainger (University of Utah) offered a candid assessment of the informational and technological barriers to robust biological in vitro studies of engineered nanomaterials; and Martin Philbert concluded with an equally compelling overview of the challenges involved in understanding biological in vivo interactions of engineered nanomaterials.

The afternoon of the first day was given over to three concurrent breakout sessions on each of the critical research areas: characterization, in vitro instrumentation, and in vivo instrumentation.  With hand-selected session chairs and participants, each group was charged with reviewing, prioritizing, and reworking the itemized research needs for Human Health and Instrumentation. Travis Earles (Office of Science and Technology Policy) closed the first day with an overview of the White House perspective on nanotechnology health and safety and called for strengthened ties across sectors, industries, and nations.

Day two of the workshop began with breakout-session reports, followed by case studies of real-world environmental, health, and safety experiences. Chuck Geraci (NIOSH) described the challenges of measuring nanomaterial exposure in the workplace; Don Baer (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) presented Iron Oxide as a case study for characterization obstacles; and Allison Elder (University of Rochester) discussed the International Alliance for NanoEHS Harmonization as an effort to generate standard protocols for testing the biological impact of nanoparticles on human health.  A second round of concurrent breakout sessions followed, where participants refined their work of the previous day, identified solutions for gaps and barriers, and established timelines and milestones for ongoing research needs.

A working lunch featured Justin Teegaurden (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) and Martin Fritts (Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory) who presented Nanoinformatics: Data-Enabled Predictive Modeling for nanoEHS. Their talks underscored a recurring theme through the workshop: information must be better standardized and rapidly shared in order to expedite environmental, health, and safety research--specifically research on toxicology and human health. Their presentation generated debate and spilled over into an unscheduled breakout session on Nanoinformatics.

Meanwhile, the workshop closed with public comments, a summary of thoughts from the breakout sessions, and concluding remarks from workshop organizers. The workshop will be written up as an NNI report and made publicly available.

Previous NNI reports on Environmental Health and Safety include:

The final workshop of the series will take place on March 30-31, 2010.

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