Department of Environmental Sciences
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Seminar Abstracts
Environmental Sciences Seminar Abstract            

  THE NEW SCIENCE OF SOPHISTICATED MATERIALS: NANOMATERIALS AND BEYOND
Andrew Maynard
University of Michigan School of Public Health

It is widely accepted that materials engineered at the nanoscale exhibit novel chemical and biological properties, and that these properties potentially translate into novel health risks. But with the hype surrounding nanotechnology, has science been superseded by speculation in how we understand and address possible risks?

It has long been recognized that the physical form of materials can mediate their toxicity - the health impacts of asbestiform materials, industrial aerosols and ambient Particulate Matter provideclear examples. Yet over the past twenty years, research has suggested increasingly complex associations between material physicochemistry at the nanoscale and biological interactions. Current research is highlighting the importance of material physicochemical properties in determining how dose is understood, how materials are characterized in a way that enables quantitative data interpretation and comparison, and how materials move within, interact with and are transformed by biological systems. Underpinning this framework is the assumption - rarely challenged - that there is something unique and distinctive about the nanoscale. But what if observations at the nanoscalemerely reflect a broader reality - that[LINK] the physical form and chemical composition of materials affect their ability to cause harm over multiple length scales? As increasingly sophisticated materials enter commerce - often not fitting under neat labels - a more sophisticated and science-based understanding of how they interact with biological systems, and how and when this might lead to harm, is needed.


Last updated: 02/14/2012