Analysis, basic knowledge and environment prioritised in ecotoxicology consultation

August 2, 2006

Brussels, 01 Aug 2006

Analytical improvements, fundamental knowledge and environmental issues have been highlighted as priorities in response to a consultation on research and development (R&D) in (eco) toxicology organised by the European Commission.

The informal consultation was held in early 2006. Its aim was to stimulate debate among stakeholders and researchers while gathering information for the setting of priorities, particularly on the health and safety aspects of nanotechnology-based products.

A total of 75 contributions were received, including more than 170 suggestions. The majority of responses came from three EU Member States: the UK, Germany and Italy, while input was also received from associated countries (Israel, Switzerland and Norway) and third countries such as the US. Three contributions came from international organisations.

Over 38 per cent of responses came from academia, while small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) contributed around 14 per cent of submissions. According to a report on the results, this 'proves the SMEs' deep interest in the issues of safety of products based on nanotechnologies and, probably, also shows the need that SMEs have collaborative initiatives and of a common approach in (eco)toxicology'.

Analytical improvements were highlighted as priorities in 23 per cent of responses. Comments in this area fit into one of three areas:

  • development or improvement of specific measurement equipment (such as for environmental sampling or portable devices);

  • testing methods and protocols;

  • adequate characterisation of testing materials addressing elements such as distribution, shape, purity, traces of catalyst, surface properties and degradation.

After analytical improvements, fundamental knowledge was cited the most frequently. Responses argued for research to fill gaps in basic toxicology, long term effects, mechanisms of toxicity, and human exposure.

Environmental issues constitute the third area prioritised in contributions. In particular, stakeholders outlined a need for more of a focus on:

  • life cycle assessment of products based on nanotechnology;

  • basic ecotoxicology elements, including distribution, bioaccumulation, bioavailability and the potential role of nanoparticles in mobilising other contaminants simultaneously present in the environment;

  • specific tests suitable for certain environmental matrix;

  • mapping of current status: distribution and levels of nanoparticles in EU environmental samples.

Other issues highlighted in response to the consultation include databases, poles of excellence and societal aspects. The ensuing report states that suggestions received on databases were often imprecise regarding the organisation, management and type of information needed. Proposals for databases included materials and research activities.

The Commission states that the results of the consultation 'may be used [...] for defining the activities and research priorities for possible funding under the EU Seventh Framework Programme'.

Full report

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2006
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