Tag Archives: European Parliament

Oldest periodic table chart and a new ‘scarcity’ periodic table of elements at University of St. Andrews (Scotland)

The University of St. Andrews kicked off the new year (2019) by announcing the discovery of what’s believed to the world’s oldest periodic table chart. From a January 17, 2019 news item on phys.org

A periodic table chart discovered at the University of St Andrews is thought to be the oldest in the world.

The chart of elements, dating from 1885, was discovered in the University’s School of Chemistry in 2014 by Dr. Alan Aitken during a clear out. The storage area was full of chemicals, equipment and laboratory paraphernalia that had accumulated since the opening of the chemistry department at its current location in 1968. Following months of clearing and sorting the various materials a stash of rolled up teaching charts was discovered. Within the collection was a large, extremely fragile periodic table that flaked upon handling. Suggestions that the discovery may be the earliest surviving example of a classroom periodic table in the world meant the document required urgent attention to be authenticated, repaired and restored.

Courtesy: University of St. Andrews

A January 17, 2019 University of St. Andrews press release, which originated the news item, describes the chart and future plans for it in more detail,

Mendeleev made his famous disclosure on periodicity in 1869, the newly unearthed table was rather similar, but not identical to Mendeleev’s second table of 1871. However, the St Andrews table was clearly an early specimen. The table is annotated in German, and an inscription at the bottom left – ‘Verlag v. Lenoir & Forster, Wien’­ – identifies a scientific printer who operated in Vienna between 1875 and 1888. Another inscription – ‘Lith. von Ant. Hartinger & Sohn, Wien’ – identifies the chart’s lithographer, who died in 1890. Working with the University’s Special Collections team, the University sought advice from a series of international experts. Following further investigations, no earlier lecture chart of the table appears to exist. Professor Eric Scerri, an expert on the history of the periodic table based at the University of California, Los Angeles, dated the table to between 1879 and 1886 based on the represented elements. For example, both gallium and scandium, discovered in 1875 and 1879 respectively, are present, while germanium, discovered in 1886, is not.

In view of the table’s age and emerging uniqueness it was important for the teaching chart to be preserved for future generations. The paper support of the chart was fragile and brittle, its rolled format and heavy linen backing contributed to its poor mechanical condition. To make the chart safe for access and use it received a full conservation treatment. The University’s Special Collections was awarded a funding grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (NMCT) for the conservation of the chart in collaboration with private conservator Richard Hawkes (Artworks Conservation). Treatment to the chart included: brushing to remove loose surface dirt and debris, separating the chart from its heavy linen backing, washing the chart in de-ionised water adjusted to a neutral pH with calcium hydroxide to remove the soluble discolouration and some of the acidity, a ‘de-acidification’ treatment by immersion in a bath of magnesium hydrogen carbonate to deposit an alkaline reserve in the paper, and finally repairing tears and losses using a Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste. The funding also allowed production of a full-size facsimile which is now on display in the School of Chemistry. The original periodic table has been rehoused in conservation grade material and is stored in Special Collections’ climate-controlled stores in the University.

A researcher at the University, M Pilar Gil from Special Collections, found an entry in the financial transaction records in the St Andrews archives recording the purchase of an 1885 table by Thomas Purdie from the German catalogue of C Gerhardt (Bonn) for the sum of 3 Marks in October 1888. This was paid from the Class Account and included in the Chemistry Class Expenses for the session 1888-1889. This entry and evidence of purchase by mail order appears to define the provenance of the St Andrews periodic table. It was produced in Vienna in 1885 and was purchased by Purdie in 1888. Purdie was professor of Chemistry from 1884 until his retirement in 1909. This in itself is not so remarkable, a new professor setting up in a new position would want the latest research and teaching materials. Purdie’s appointment was a step-change in experimental research at St Andrews. The previous incumbents had been mineralogists, whereas Purdie had been influenced by the substantial growth that was taking place in organic chemistry at that time. What is remarkable however is that this table appears to be the only surviving one from this period across Europe. The University is keen to know if there are others out there that are close in age or even predate the St Andrews table.

Professor David O’Hagan, recent ex-Head of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, said: “The discovery of the world’s oldest classroom periodic table at the University of St Andrews is remarkable. The table will be available for research and display at the University and we have a number of events planned in 2019, which has been designated international year of the periodic table by the United Nations, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the table’s creation by Dmitri Mendeleev.”

Gabriel Sewell, Head of Special Collections, University of St Andrews, added: “We are delighted that we now know when the oldest known periodic table chart came to St Andrews to be used in teaching.  Thanks to the generosity of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the table has been preserved for current and future generations to enjoy and we look forward to making it accessible to all.”

They’ve timed their announcement very well since it’s UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019). My January 8, 2019 posting offers more information and links about the upcoming festivities. By the way, this year is also the table’s 150th anniversary.

Getting back to Scotland, scientists there have created a special Periodic Table of Elements charting ‘element scarcity’, according to a January 22, 2019 University of St. Andrews press release,

Scientists from the University of St Andrews have developed a unique periodic table which highlights the scarcity of elements used in everyday devices such as smart phones and TVs.

Chemical elements which make up mobile phones are included on an ‘endangered list’ in the landmark version of the periodic table to mark its 150th anniversary. Around ten million smartphones are discarded or replaced every month in the European Union alone. The European Chemical Society (EuChemS), which represents more than 160,000 chemists, has developed the unique periodic table to highlight both the remaining availability of all 90 elements and their vulnerability.

The unique updated periodic table will be launched at the European Parliament today (Tuesday 22 January), by British MEPs Catherine Stihler and Clare Moody. The event will also highlight the recent discovery of the oldest known wallchart of the Periodic Table, discovered last year at the University of St Andrews.

Smartphones are made up of around 30 elements, over half of which give cause for concern in the years to come because of increasing scarcity – whether because of limited supplies, their location in conflict areas, or our incapacity to fully recycle them.

With finite resources being used up so fast, EuChemS Vice-President and Emeritus Professor in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, Professor David Cole-Hamilton, has questioned the trend for replacing mobile phones every two years, urging users to recycle old phones correctly. EuChemS wants a greater recognition of the risk to the lifespan of elements, and the need to support better recycling practices and a true circular economy.

Professor David Cole-Hamilton said: “It is astonishing that everything in the world is made from just 90 building blocks, the 90 naturally occurring chemical elements.

“There is a finite amount of each and we are using some so fast that they will be dissipated around the world in less than 100 years.

“Many of these elements are endangered, so should you really change your phone every two years?”

Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland and former Rector of the University of St Andrews, said: “As we mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, it’s fascinating to see it updated for the 21st century.

“But it’s also deeply worrying to see how many elements are on the endangered list, including those which make up mobile phones.

“It is a lesson to us all to care for the world around us, as these naturally-occurring elements won’t last forever unless we increase global recycling rates and governments introduce a genuine circular economy.”

Pilar Goya, EuChemS President, said: “For EuChemS, the supranational organisation representing more than 160,000 chemists from different European countries, the celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table is a great opportunity to communicate the crucial role of chemistry in overcoming the challenges society will be facing in the near future.”

The new Periodic Table can be viewed online.

‘The Periodic Table and us: its history, meaning and element scarcity’ takes place at The European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium on 22 January 2019. The two-hour session features speakers from the chemical sciences as well as representatives from the European Parliament and the European Commission.

This year (2019) is the United Nations International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT2019) and the 150th anniversary of scientist Dmitri Mendeleev’s discovery of the periodic system as we now know it. Natalia Tarasova, Past-President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), will present the IYPT2019.

The Periodic Table of chemical elements is one of the most significant scientific achievements and is today one of the best-known symbols of science, recognised and studied by people around the globe.

EuChemS, the European Chemical Society, coordinates the work of 48 chemical societies and other chemistry related organisations, representing more than 160,000 chemists. Through the promotion of chemistry and by providing expert and scientific advice, EuChemS aims to take part in solving today’s major societal challenges.

Here’s what the ‘new’ periodic table looks like:

Courtesy: University of St. Andrews and EuChemS

European Commission (EC) responds to a 2014 petition calling for a European Union (EU)-wide ban on microplastics and nanoparticles

Lynn Bergeson’s July 12, 2016 posting on Nanotechnology Now features information about the European Commission’s response to a petition to ban the use of microplastics and nanoparticles throughout the European Union,

On June 29, 2016, the European Commission (EC) provided a notice to the European Parliament regarding its response to a 2014 petition calling for a European Union (EU)-wide ban on microplastics and nanoparticles. … In its response, the EC states that nanoparticles “are ubiquitous in the environment,” and while some manufactured nanomaterials may potentially be carcinogenic, others are not. The EC states that the general regulatory framework on chemicals, along with the sectoral legislation, “are appropriate to assess and manage the risks from nanomaterials, provided that a case-by-case assessment is performed.” The EC notes that the need to modify the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation to include more specific requirements for nanomaterials was identified. According to the EC, a final impact assessment of the proposed changes is being prepared, and the modification of technical REACH Annexes to include specific considerations for nanomaterials is planned for early 2017. The EC states that it created a web portal intended to improve communication regarding nanomaterials, and that this web portal will soon be superseded by the EU Nano Observatory, which will be managed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

I was imagining the petition was made by a consortium of civil society groups but it seems it was initiated by an individual, Ludwig Bühlmeier. You can find the notice of the petition here and the petition itself (PDF) here. I believe the still current EC portal “… intended to improve communication regarding nanomaterials …” is the JRC (Joint Research Centre) Web Platform on Nanomaterials.

Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society issued May 2014 by US Presidential Bioethics Commission (part three of five)

The Brain research, ethics, and nanotechnology (part one of five) May 19, 2014 post kicked off a series titled ‘Brains, prostheses, nanotechnology, and human enhancement’ which brings together a number of developments in the worlds of neuroscience, prosthetics, and, incidentally, nanotechnology in the field of interest called human enhancement. Parts one through four are an attempt to draw together a number of new developments, mostly in the US and in Europe. Due to my language skills which extend to English and, more tenuously, French, I can’t provide a more ‘global perspective’. Part five features a summary.

A May 14, 2014 news release on EurekAlert announced the release of volume 1 (in a projected 2-volume series) from the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in response to a request from President Barack Obama regarding the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative,

Bioethics commission plays early role in BRAIN Initiative
Calls for integrating ethics explicitly throughout neuroscience research ‘Everyone benefits when the emphasis is on integration, not intervention’

Washington, DC— Calling for the integration of ethics across the life of neuroscientific research endeavors, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) released volume one of its two-part response to President Obama’s request related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The report, Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, includes four recommendations for institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research including government agencies and other funders.

You can find volume one: Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society here. For those who prefer the short story, here’s more from the news release,

“Neurological conditions—which include addiction, chronic pain, dementia, depression, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, among other conditions—affect more than one billion people globally. Neuroscience has begun to make important breakthroughs, but given the complexity of the brain, we must better understand it in order to make desired progress,” said Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Bioethics Commission Chair. “But because research on our brains strikes at the very core of who we are, the ethical stakes of neuroscience research could not be higher. Ethicists and scientists should be together at the table in the earliest stages of research planning fostering a fluent two-way conversation. Too often in our nation’s past, ethical lapses in research have had tragic consequences and derailed scientific progress.”

President Obama asked the Bioethics Commission to play a critical role in ensuring that neuroscientific investigational methods and protocols are consistent with sound ethical principles and practices. Specifically the President asked the Bioethics Commission to “identify proactively a set of core ethical standards – both to guide neuroscience research and to address some of the ethical dilemmas that may be raised by the application of neuroscience research findings.”

“Our rapidly advancing knowledge of the nervous system – and ability to detect disease sometimes even before symptoms begin – has not yet led to much needed breakthroughs in treatment, repair, and prevention; the BRAIN initiative will hopefully accelerate the trajectory of discoveries against terrible neurologic maladies,” Commission Member and neuroimmunologist Stephen Hauser, M.D., said.

In its report the Bioethics Commission noted that when facing the promise of neuroscience, we are compelled to consider carefully scientific advances that have the potential to alter our conception of the very private and autonomous nature of self. Our understanding of the mind, our private thoughts, and our volition necessitates careful reflection about the scientific, societal, and ethical aspects of neuroscience endeavors. Integrating ethics explicitly and systematically into the relatively new field of contemporary neuroscience allows us to incorporate ethical insights into the scientific process and to consider societal implications of neuroscience research from the start. Early ethics integration can prevent the need for corrective interventions resulting from ethical mishaps that erode public trust in science.

“In short, everyone benefits when the emphasis is on integration, not intervention,” Gutmann said. “Ethics in science must not come to the fore for the first time after something has gone wrong. An essential step is to include expert ethicists in the BRAIN Initiative advisory and review bodies.”


In its report the Bioethics Commission noted that although ethics is already integrated into science in various ways, more explicit and systematic integration serves to elucidate implicit ethical judgments and allows their merits to be assessed more thoughtfully. The Commission offered four recommendations.

  1. Integrate ethics early and explicitly throughout research: Institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research should integrate ethics across the life of a research endeavor, identifying the key ethical questions associated with their research and taking immediate steps to make explicit their systems for addressing those questions. Sufficient resources should be dedicated to support ethics integration. Approaches to ethics integration discussed by the Bioethics Commission include:a. Implementing ethics education at all levels
    b. Developing institutional infrastructure to facilitate integration
    c. Researching the ethical, legal, and social implications of scientific research
    d. Providing research ethics consultation services
    e. Engaging with stakeholders
    f. Including an ethics perspective on the research team
  2. Evaluate existing and innovative approaches to ethics integration: Government agencies and other research funders should initiate and support research that evaluates existing as well as innovative approaches to ethics integration. Institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research should take into account the best available evidence for what works when implementing, modifying, or improving systems for ethics integration.
  3. Integrate ethics and science through education at all levels: Government agencies and other research funders should initiate and support research that develops innovative models and evaluates existing and new models for integrating ethics and science through education at all levels.
  4. Explicitly include ethical perspectives on advisory and review bodies: BRAIN Initiative-related scientific advisory and funding review bodies should include substantive participation by persons with relevant expertise in the ethical and societal implications of the neuroscience research under consideration.

Next the Bioethics Commission will consider the ethical and societal implications of neuroscience research and its applications more broadly – ethical implications that a strongly integrated research and ethics infrastructure will be well equipped to address, and that myriad stakeholders, including scientists, ethicists, educators, public and private funders, advocacy organizations, and the public should be prepared to handle.

Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society is the Bioethics Commission’s seventh report. The Commission seeks to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure that scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted by the United States in a socially and ethically responsible manner. The Commission is an independent, deliberative panel of thoughtful experts that advises the President and the Administration, and, in so doing, educates the nation on bioethical issues. To date the Commission has:

  • Advised the White House on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology;
  • Completed an independent historical overview and ethical analysis of the U.S. Public Health Service STD experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s;
  • Assessed the rules that currently protect human participants in research;
  • Examined the pressing privacy concerns raised by the emergence and increasing use of whole genome sequencing;
  • Conducted a thorough review of the ethical considerations of conducting clinical trials of medical countermeasures with children, including the ethical considerations involved in conducting a pre-and post-event study of anthrax vaccine adsorbed for post-exposure prophylaxis with children; and
  • Offered ethical analysis and recommendations for clinicians, researchers, and direct-to-consumer testing companies on how to manage the increasingly common issue of incidental and secondary findings.

David Bruggeman offers a few thoughts on this volume of the series in a May 14, 2014 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog,

Of specific application to the BRAIN Initiative is the need to include professionals with expertise in ethics in advisory boards and similar entities conducting research in this area.

Volume Two will focus more on the social and ethical implications of neuroscience research,  …

While it’s not mentioned in the news release, human enhancement is part of the discussion as per the hearing in February 2014. Perhaps it will be mentioned in volume two? Here’s an early post (July 27, 2009) I wrote in 2009 on human enhancement which provides some information about a then recent European Parliament report on the subject. The post was part of a series.

Links to other posts in the Brains, prostheses, nanotechnology, and human enhancement five-part series

Part one: Brain research, ethics, and nanotechnology (May 19, 2014 post)

Part two: BRAIN and ethics in the US with some Canucks (not the hockey team) participating (May 19, 2014)

Part four: Brazil, the 2014 World Cup kickoff, and a mind-controlled exoskeleton (May 20, 2014)

Part five: Brains, prostheses, nanotechnology, and human enhancement: summary (May 20, 2014)

Summary of EHS studies on nanotechnology funded through Europe’s 7th Framework Programme

I was a little shocked to see how many EHS (environment, health, and safety) projects focussed on nanotechnology that the European Union (EU) funded as part of its overarching science funding efforts, the 7th Framework Program, due to be superseded in the near future (2013)) by the Horizon 2020 program. The June 18, 2012 Nanowerk Spotlight article submitted by NanoTrust, Austrian Academy of Sciences provides the reasoning for the EU  effort (Note: I have removed footnotes.),

The Action Plan, presented by the EU Commission in 2004, envisioned integrating “the social dimension into a responsible technology development” and strengthening efforts related to “health, safety, environmental aspects and consumer protection“.

This encompassed (1) the systematic study of safety-relevant aspects at the earliest possible date, (2) integrating health- and environment-relevant aspect in research and development, (3) conducting targeted studies on toxicology and ecotoxicology and, finally, (4) adapting risk assessment approaches to nano-specific aspects in all phases of product life-cycles.

The primary goal was to improve the competitiveness of European industry. The draft presented in mid-2011 for the planned research priorities continues this strategic focus.

The EU Parliament had already discussed the Nano Action Plan developed by the Commission before the start of the current Framework Program. From the onset, the relevant parliamentary resolution called for an improved coordination with the Member States and more risk research, consideration of the precautionary principle and a deepened dialogue with citizens.

The EU Parliament clearly felt that the rules require urgent adaptations in order to adequately consider nano-risks: In the resolution of April 2009 the parliamentarians underlined the existence of a considerable “lack of information about the use and safety of nanomaterials that are already on the market”.

The overall scope of the projects on nanotechnology, materials and production (NMP) funded by the 7th RP is listed at about 3.475 mill. €. According to EU sources, about 102 mill. € were earmarked for safety aspects (nanosafety research).The comparison with the much more modest Nano-EHS-budget in the past clearly shows the change here (5th RP: about 2.5 mill. €, 6th RP 6 about 30 mill. €).

The publication from where this information was drawn is no.30 in the NanoTrust Dossier series. It was published in May 2012 (from pp. 2-6),


Title: Engineered Nanoparticle Impact on Aquatic Environments: Structure, Activity and Toxicology

Coordinator: Andrew Nelson,
Centre for Molecular Nanosciences (CMNS), School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, UK
Duration: July 2009 to July 2012
Project costs: 3,655 mill. €
EU funding: 2,816 mill. €
Homepage: www.ennsatox.eu

The goal of ENNSATOX is to investigate the environmental effects of various synthetic nanoparticles from the time of their release to their potential uptake by organisms, particularly in rivers and lakes. …


Title: Risk Assessment of Engineered Nanoparticles

Coordinator: Lang Tran,
Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Edinburg, UK
Duration: July 2009 to July 2012
Project costs: 5,13 mill. €
EU funding: 3,7 mill. €
Homepage: www.enpra.eu

ENPRA is examining the impacts of selected and commercially used nanomaterials, whereby the different target organs (lungs, cardiovascular system, kidneys etc.) and different mechanisms of damage (see Nano Trust-Dossier 012en) are being determined. …


Title: Health Impact of Engineered Metal and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Response, Bioimaging and Distribution at Cellular and Body Level

Coordinator: Sergio E. Moya,
Centro de Investigación Cooperativa en Biomateriales (Spanien)
Duration: October 2009 to October 2012
Project costs: 2.93 mill. €
EU funding: 2.3 mill. €
Homepage: www.hinamox.eu

HINAMOX deals with the impacts of several metal-oxide nanoparticles – TiO2, ZnO, Al2O3, CeO2 etc. – on human health and on biological systems. …


Title: Intestinal, Liver and Endothelial Nanoparticle Toxicity – development and evaluation of a novel tool for high-throughput data generation

Coordinator: Martha Liley,
CSEM (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique SA)
Duration: May 2009 to July 2012
Project costs: 3.42 mill. €
EU funding: 2.4 mill. €
Homepage: www.inlivetox.eu

In InLiveTox, an improved in-vitro model is being developed to describe the effects of nanoparticles taken up via food, especially effects on the gastrointestinal tract and the liver.  …


Title: Managing Risks of Nanomaterials

Coordinator: Lang Tran,
IOM (Institute of Occupational Medicine) Edinburgh, UK
Duration: November 2011 to November 2015
Project costs: 12.48 Mio. €
EU funding: 9.0 mill. €
Homepage: www.marina-fp7.eu and http://www.iom-world.org

A total of almost 50 industrial companies (including BASF) and scientific facilities are combined in the very large joint project MARINA, coordinated by the Institute of Occupational Medicine of the University of Edinburgh; other organizations that are involved in employee protection and occupational safety are also participating (FIOH/Finland, IST/Switzerland, RIVM/The Netherlands). …


Title: Modelling nanoparticle toxicity: principles, methods, novel approaches Toxicology

Coordinator: Eugenia Valsami-Jones,
Natural History Museum, London, UK
Duration: November 2011 to November 2013
Project costs: 1.28 mill. €
EU funding: 1.0 mill. €
Homepage: (under construction) lib.bioinfo.pl/projects/view/32734

The goal of ModNanoTox is to develop welldocumented models on the long-term behavior of synthetic nanoparticles in organisms and in the environment. …


Title: Development of Exposure Scenarios for Manufactured Nanomaterials

Coordinator: Martie van Tongeren,
Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Edinburgh UK
Duration: December 2009 to November 2010
Project costs: 1.01 mill. €
EU funding: 0.95 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanex-project.eu, lib.bioinfo.pl/projects/view/12016

In NanEx, a catalog of realistic scenarios is being developed for potential impacts of synthetic nanoparticles at industrial workplaces, of various uses by consumers as well as of delayed releases into the environment. …


Title: Modelling Novel Concepts, Methods and Technologies for the Production of Portable, Easy-to-Use Devices for the Measurement and Analysis of Airborne Nanoparticles in Workplace Air

Coordinator: Kai Savolainen,
Finnish Institute for Occupational Health (FIOH), Finland
Duration: April 2009 to April 2013
Project costs: 12.28 mill. €
EU funding: 9.49 mill. €
Homepage: www.nano-device.eu

Due to the lack of robust and inexpensive instruments, the nanoparticle concentrations in the air at the workplace cannot be measured at the present time. NANODEVICE is devoted to studying innovative concepts and practicable methods for identifying synthetic nanomaterials, methods that can also be used at the workplace. …


Title: Nanoparticle Fate Assessment and Toxicity in the Environment

Coordinator: Klaus Svendsen,
NERC (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology),
Wallingford, UK
Duration: April 2010 to April 2014
Project costs: 3.25 mill. €
EU funding: 2.50 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanofate.eu

NanoFATE is devoted to systematically deepening our knowledge about the behavior and the fate of synthetic nanoparticles that enter the environment. …


Title: Towards a method for detecting the potential genotoxicity of nanomaterials

Coordinator: Anses – French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety
Duration: March 2010 to March 2014
Project costs: 6.0 mill. € EU funding: 2.90 mill. € (as co-funding though the program
EU-Health & Consumers)
Homepage: www.nanogenotox.eu/

Nanogenotox is not directly a part of the 7th RP but rather a Joint Action, about half of which is funded by the participating European states. The task of this project is to study the gene toxicity (i.e. the damaging effect on the genetic material of organisms) of selected nanomaterials. …


Title: Cycle of Nanoparticle-Based Products used in House-Coating

Coordinator: Francois Tardif,
CEA (Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives), Grenoble, Frankreich
Duration: January 2010 to July 2013
Project costs: 3.1 mill. €
EU funding: 2.4 mill. €
Homepage: www-nanohouse.cea.fr

The task of NanoHouse is to comprehensively evaluate environmentally relevant and health-related effects of nanoproducts used in house construction; the focus is on paints and coatings with TiO2- and nanosilver components, whose impacts and fates are being more closely examined. …


Title: The European Network on the Health and Environmental Impact of Nanomaterials

Coordinator: Michael Riediker,
Institut universitaire romand der Santé au Travail, Schweiz (IST)
Duration: April 2008 to April 2012
Project costs: 3.19 mill. €
EU funding: 2.0 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanoimpactnet.eu

This large network of partner institutes from numerous countries is designed mainly to exchange information about new knowledge as well as knowledge gaps in the health- and environment-related impacts of nanoparticles. …


Title: Nanoparticles in Food: Analytical Methods for Detection and Characterisation

Coordinator: Stefan Weigel,
RIKILT – Institute of Food Safety, Niederlande
Duration: January 2010 to October 2013
Project costs: 4.05 mill. €
EU funding: 2.95 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanolyse.eu

The goal of NanoLyse is to develop approved methods for analyzing synthetic nanomaterials in food and drinks. …


Title: Comprehensive Assessment of Hazardous Effects of Engineered Nanomaterials on the Immune System Toxicology

Coordinator: Bengt Fadeel,
Karolinsk  Institutet, Stockholm
Duration: September 2008 to September 2011 (completed)
Project costs: 4.31 mill. €
EU funding: 3.36 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanommune.eu

NANOMMUNE examined the influence of synthetic nanomaterials on the immune system and their potential negative health effects. …


Title: Toxicological impact of nanomaterials derived from processing, weathering and recycling of polymer nanocomposites used in various industrial applications

Coordinator: Socorro Vázquez-Campos,
LEITAT Technological Centre, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: May 2010 to May 2013
Project costs: 3.30 mill. €
EU funding: 2.43 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanopolytox.eu

NanoPolyTox is tasked with determining the changes in the physical and toxic properties of three different nanomaterials (nanotubes, nano-clay minerals, metal-oxide nanoparticles) that are used in combination with polymers as filling materials.  …


Title: The reactivity and toxicity of engineered nanoparticles: risks to the environment and human health

Coordinator: Eugenia Valsami-Jones,
Natural History Museum, London, UK
Duration: December 2008 to December 2012
Project costs: 5.19 mill. €
EU funding: 3.19 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanoretox.eu

NanoReTox is designed to better describe the EHS-risks of synthetic nanomaterials based on new research results. …


Title: Development of sustainable solutions for nanotechnology-based products based on hazard characterization and LCA

Coordinator: Rudolf Reuther,
NordMilijö AB, Sweden
Duration: May 2010 to May 2013
Project costs: 3.2 mill. €
EU funding: 2.5 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanosustain.eu

NanoSustain is designed to develop innovative solutions for all phases in dealing with nanotechnology products – up until the landfill or recycling stage. Four nanomaterials are being examined in greater detail: nano-cellulose, CNT, nano-TiO2, as well as nano-ZnO. …


Title: Modelling basis and kinetics of nanoparticle interaction with membranes, uptake into cells, and sub-cellular and inter-compartmental transport

Coordinator: Kenneth Dawson,
University College, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: November 2011 to November 2014
Project costs: 1.3 mill. €
EU funding: 0.99 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanotranskinetics.eu

The aim of NanoTransKinetics is to substantially improve the models used to describe biological (and therefore also toxic) interrelationships between nanoparticles and living organisms.  …


Title: Development of reference methods for hazard identification, risk assessment and LCA of engineered nanomaterials

Coordinator: Rudolf Reuther,
NordMiljö AB, Sweden
Duration: November 2011 to November 2015
Project costs: 13.4 mill. €
EU funding: 9.6 mill. €
Homepage: www.nanovalid.eu

The aim of NanoValid is to develop reference methods and materials to identify and assess the risks of synthetic nanomaterials in close cooperation with the similarly oriented project MARINA (see above). …


Title: Nanomaterials-related environmental pollution and health hazards throughout their life-cycle

Coordinator: EKOTEK S.L. (Spanien)
Duration: September 2009 to September 2012
Project costs: 3.1 mill. €
EU funding: 2.5 mill. €
Homepage: www.nephh-fp7.eu

NEPHH seeks to better estimate the environmental and health-related risks of nanostructures over the course of their use. …


Title: Do nanoparticles induce neurodegenerative diseases? Understanding the origin of reactive oxidative species and protein aggregation and mis-folding phenomena in the presence of nanoparticles

Coordinator: Kenneth Dawson,
University College, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: February 2009 toFebruary 2012
Project costs: 4.8 mill. €
EU funding: 2.5 mill. €
Homepage: www.neuronano.eu

To date, the full details on the factors that allow nanoparticles to pass the blood-brain barrier are unknown15. NeuroNano examines the effect of nanoparticle size, shape and composition, along with the role of the adsorbed corona of biomolecules (see above). …


Title: A pan-european infrastructure for quality in nanomaterials safety testing

Coordinator: Kenneth Dawson,
University College, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: February 2011 to February 2015
Project costs: 9.2 mill. €
EU funding: 7.0 mill. €
Homepage: www.qnano-ri.eu

Rather than being devoted to a separate research topic, QNano is designed to interlink and support facilities that provide the necessary infrastructure for investigating and characterizing nanosubstances. …

That’s quite the list, eh?

Nanomaterial regulatory frameworks: what’s all the fuss?

I’ve dug up more information on nanomaterials and regulatory frameworks but before I launch off into the discussion I think it might be interesting to take a look at this graphic of a plant’s potential uptake of various nanomaterials as it illustrates some of the reasons why there’s so much interest in this topic.

Downloaded from the June 7, 2011 article, Nano & The Food Chain: Another Puzzle by Gwyneth K. Shaw for the New Haven Independent (the graphic was originally published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry),


Shaw’s article is about a study (Interaction of Nanoparticles with Edible Plants and Their Possible Implications in the Food Chain [this is behind a paywall]) by researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso, which reviews current studies in the field and suggests that as nanoparticles enter the food chain we need to consider cumulative effects.

Meanwhile, the discussion about developing regulatory frameworks and whether or not we need to have a definition for nanomaterials before setting a regulatory framework continues. From the June 7, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union organized a high level event on September 14, 2010, bringing together representatives of various associations (consumers, environmental protection, workers, industrial federations), scientists, regulatory experts as well as national and European regulatory bodies, in order to review the legislative initiatives in progress with regard to nanomaterials and to establish an operational framework for the management of incidents in the short term and to achieve improved risk management in the long term.

Initially I confused this meeting with the March 2011 meeting mentioned in my April 14, 2011 posting but I gather there are a number of meetings (some of which seem remarkably similar) on the topic with various European Union groups and subgroups. The September 2010 meeting was under the auspices of the European Union and the March 2011 meeting was under the auspices of the European Commission (which I believe is part of the European Union bureaucracy). In any event, the September 2010 meeting resulted in a set of objectives being set (from the news item),

THE [European Union] PRESIDENCY CONCLUDES THAT, IN ORDER TO protect the workers, consumers health and the environment, and at the same time guarantee the development of a secure and sound economy based notably on innovation and societally acceptable industrial applications that create quality jobs, THE FOLLOWING OBJECTIVES MUST BE REACHED, IN RELATION TO NANOMATERIALS, PRODUCTS CONTAINING NANOMATERIALS AND NANOTECHNOLOGIES:


  • to effectively address their potential risks and uncertainties, at the earliest, and thus ensure a high level of environment and health protection;
  • to consider their challenges transversally, across sectors, disciplines and regulations;
  • in parallel, to implement specific regulatory measures to deal with their particularities;
  • to appropriately inform and consult consumers, workers and citizens;


  • to develop the necessary scientific knowledge in a global, coordinated and open manner;
  • to be proactive and to anticipate when dealing with the risks and uncertainties of new technological developments.


  • to take up responsibilities at the Member States level and, during a transitory period, draw up coordinated and integrated national strategies and concrete measures in favour of risk management, information and monitoring;
  • to develop urgently a regulatory definition for nanomaterials that must include nanomaterials all along their lifecycle, including into substances, products, articles, wearing residues and waste; [emphasis mine]
  • to consider nanotechnology as a priority into a future 2nd Environment and Health Action Plan, including inter alia basic and applied research related to them, their specific potential risks, their traceability and the link between innovation, environment and health safety;
  • to clarify the various issues that remain presently unaddressed in the Commission proposals to adapt REACH to the nanomaterials and, in addition to the adaptations to the guidances to include significant modifications into the REACH 2012 review, including the lowering of the tonnage triggers for nanomaterials, modifications to data requirements in REACH annexes, consideration of nanomaterials as new substances, annexes V (exemptions) and XIII review (PBT, vPvB) and the inclusion in REACH of a definition of nanomaterials and articles containing nanomaterials;
  • to increase public and private resources, especially the financial inputs to the OECD WPMN, with the goal of obtaining results to be used for regulatory purposes as soon as possible;
  • to develop harmonized compulsory databases of nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials;
  • such databases must be the base for traceability, market surveillance, gaining knowledge for better risk prevention and for the improvement of the legislative framework;
  • to take into account, in the design of such databases, the need for providing information to the citizens, workers and consumers regarding nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials as well as the industry’s need for data protection;
  • claims made on labels of products containing nanomaterials must be regulated and the requirements to inform the consumer of the presence of nanomaterials in consumer products must be defined;
  • to consider sustainability, societal benefits, demands for public participation, and ethical considerations in the public investments in innovative technologies;
  • to establish a systematic, balanced and appropriate link between on the one hand the assessment of risk, early warnings and uncertainties and on the other hand the public investments in innovative technologies in general and nanotechnologies in particular, including financing mechanisms that take such a link into account;
  • to consider research in toxicology and ecotoxicology of nanomaterials, as well as their fate along the whole lifecycle as a high priority.

There is a school of thought that a regulatory framework can be put in place without establishing a definition beforehand as per my April 15, 2011 posting where I mentioned Dr. Andrew Maynard’s proposal and expressed some hesitation. I see Dexter Johnson (of the Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website), after interviewing Rudolf Strohmeier, Deputy Director General, Directorate General for Research & Innovation for the European Commission at the EuroNano Forum 2011 in Budapest, Hungary, has weighed in with this in his May 31, 2011 posting,

Below is an audio recording I made of my exchange with Mr. Strohmeier. Interestingly, according to him, the definition was necessary for educating EU citizens as much as for developing regulations. …

In fairness, I didn’t really get a chance to follow up with Mr. Strohmeier to see if he could see the problems that arise when you arbitrarily arrive at a definition that may not always reflect the latest science on the topic. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that a definition that is as much about mollifying the public as it is about good science has inherent risks itself. [emphases mine]

I take Dexter’s and Andrew’s point about the potential problems that creating a definition for what I’m going to call ‘public relations purposes’ could cause but I still haven’t grasped how one would create a regulatory framework without a definition of some kind (but maybe that’s just the writer in me).

All of this certainly puts the Canadian situation into perspective. There’s an interim definition in place. As for a regulatory framework, it appears that the government (Health Canada) favours a case by case approach as per their plans to investigate nanosunscreens (noted in my June 3, 2011 posting).

Europeans to label engineered nano-scale ingredients in food

According to a news item on Nanowerk,

The European Parliament has demanded mandatory labelling of all products containing nano ingredients and acknowledged that specific methods to test the safety of nanomaterials are needed. Until these methods are available, food containing nanomaterials should not enter the EU market.

More specifically, Members of the European Parliament voted on this measure July 7, 2010,

The European Parliament agreed that nano-sized ingredients and food from nanotech processes should be subject to novel foods regulations. They furthermore called for a moratorium until specifically-designed risk assessment of nanotechnology processes or nano-ingredients can prove them to be safe, expressing concerns that nanotechnology is already being used in food and food packaging. Any approved nano-ingredients should be mentioned on food labels.

I wonder what impact this legislation will have elsewhere including Canada.

Europe’s definition of nanomaterials for regulatory purposes? Maybe not so much.

The European Commission has just released a reference report for a definition of nanomaterials which will set the base for a regulatory framework in Europe. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Despite the growing utilisation of engineered nanomaterials in consumer products and innovative technological applications, there is at present no widely accepted definition of the term “nanomaterial” that is suitable as a basis for legislation on their safe use. Responding to a request of the European Parliament, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) published today a reference report entitled “Considerations on a definition of nanomaterial for regulatory purposes” (pdf download).

The report discusses possible elements of a definition aiming at reducing ambiguity and confusion for regulators, industry and the general public. It recommends that the specific term “particulate nanomaterial” should be employed in legislation to avoid inconsistencies with other definitions and that size should be used as the only defining property. [emphases mine]

I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed, especially so after reading (very quickly) the report. The best I can say about the report is that it provides a good summary of the definitions for nanomaterials that have been proposed by various international organizations, government entities, and countries in Europe, as well as, including the US, Canada, and Australia. (I have my fingers crossed that one day there’ll be a report that mentions some other jurisdictions as well.)

Here’s the definition as recommended in the report,

For a definition aimed for regulatory purposes the term ‘nanomaterial’ in its current general understanding is not considered appropriate. Instead, the more specific term ‘particulate nanomaterial’ is suggested.

The term ‘material’ is proposed to refer to a single or closely bound ensemble of substances at least one of which is a condensed phase, where the constituents of substances are atoms and molecules.

For a basic and clear definition of ‘particulate nanomaterial’, which is broadly applicable and enforceable, it is recommended not to include properties other than size.

For the size range of the nanoscale, a lower limit of 1 nm and an upper limit of 100 nm or higher should be chosen.

The questions of size distribution, shape, and state of agglomeration or aggregation, may need to be addressed specifically in subsequently developed legislation. It is also likely that certain particulate materials of concern that fall outside a general definition might have to be listed in specific legislation.

Additional qualifiers, like specific physico-chemical properties or attributes such as ‘engineered’ or ‘manufactured’ may be relevant in the scope of specific regulations. (p. 31 print version, p. 33 PDF)

Given the work in the report, this seems a remarkably modest recommendation that could almost have been written prior. It’s almost as if they made a survey of the current recommendations and pulled together the most commonly occurring and least contentious versions to create a relatively innocuous definition.

Nanotechnology enables robots and human enhancement: part 4

In Tracy Picha’s Future of Your Body Flare magazine article (August 2009) , she finishes her anecdote about the paralympian, Aimee Mullins (mentioned in my posting of July24, 2009), with a discussion of her racing prosthetics which were designed to resemble a cheetah’s hind legs.

And they not only propelled sprinters like Mullins to smoke the competition but they began to make their wearers look like threats to other “able”-bodied athletes.

Picha goes on to mention the controversy over Oscar Pistorius another paralympian  who has recently been allowed to compete in the Olympics despite the debate over whether or not his carbon fibre cheetah-shaped racing prosthetics give him an advantage over athletes using their own human legs. If you’re interested in the controversy, you can check it out in this Wired article. Picha’s article is only available in the print version of Flare magazine’s August 2009 issue.

I think the distinctions in the  study I mentioned on Friday (July 24, 2009) between restorative/preventive but non-enhancing interventions, therapeutic enhancements, and non-therapeutic enhancements are very useful for understanding the issues. (Note: I mistakenly identified it as a UK study, in fact, it is a European Parliament study titled, Human Enhancement.) The study also makes distinctions between visions for the future and current scientific development, which given the hype surrounding human enhancement is important. The study also takes into account the political and social impacts of these developments. If you’re interested in the 200 page report, it can be downloaded from here. There’s a summary of the study by Michael Berger on Nanowerk Spotlight here.

So, are robots going to become more like people or are people going to fuse themselves with equipment and/or enhance themselves with chemicals (augmenting intelligence mentioned in my June 19, 2009 posting here) or ???  Actually, people have already started fusing themselves with equipment and enhancing their intelligence with chemicals. I guess the real question is: how far are we prepared to go not only with ourselves but with other species too?

You may want to check out Andy Miah’s (professor Andy Miah that is) website for some more thinking on this topic. He specializes in the topic of human enhancement and he follows the Olympics movement closely. His site is here and he has some slide presentations available at Slideshare and most relevant one to this series is: Bioethics and the Olympic Games: Human Enhancement here.

As for nanotechnology’s role in all of this. It is, as Victor Jones noted, an enabling technology. If those cheetah legs aren’t being made with carbon nanostructures of one type or another, they will be. There’s nanotechnology work being done on making the covering for an android more skinlike.

One last thing, I’ve concentrated on people but animals are also being augmented. There was an opinion piece by Geoff Olson (July 24, 2009) in the Vancouver Courier, a community paper, about robotic insects. According to Olson’s research (and I don’t doubt it), scientists are fusing insects with machines so they can be used to sniff out drugs, find survivors after disasters,  and perform surveillance.

That’s as much as I care to explore the topic for now. For tomorrow, I swing back to my usual beat.