In a press release published on September 19, 2016 the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) informs on the research activities carried out within a long-term research strategy on novel materials, focusing on ensuring the safety of workers, consumers, and environment. This research program, initiated in 2008 and currently planned to continue up to 2020, is carried out in collaboration with several other German federal agencies responsible for human and environmental safety. Initially focused mainly on nanomaterials, the program’s scope has now been extended to incorporate other innovative materials as well.
Much of BfR’s research in this area so far has focused on silver nanoparticles used in food contact materials or in textiles. For example, in the experiments simulating gastric and intestinal digestion, the BfR researchers could demonstrate that silver nanoparticles digested together with food components are being absorbed in much higher quantities than silver nanoparticles digested alone. This finding indicates that the studies performed with pure substances, without accounting for interactions of ingested nanomaterials with food, may potentially underestimate the resulting health risks.
Another part of BfR’s research is focused on the application of animal-free testing methods, such as human cell cultures, for studying the “fundamental toxicological properties of new materials.” Here, gene and protein expression analyses are being used to “identify biomarkers on the basis of which the effects of nanoparticles can be traced in toxicological studies.” Further, the BfR works on the development and validation of analytical methods for the detection of nanomaterials in different matrices.
BfR (September 19, 2016). “Application-safe and environmentally friendly development and use of nanomaterials and other new materials.”