At the NanoGEM closing conference, which took place June 12 and 13, 2013 in Berlin, scientists concluded that in order to evaluate the toxicity of nanomaterials (NMs) efficiently, it is necessary to evaluate them in groups, rather than each substance individually. In the framework of the three-year project, scientists from the German Institute for Risk Evaluation (BfR), the University of Münster, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Engineering (IUTA) in Duisburg, BASF, Bayer and 8 other partners investigated the safety of nanomaterials. Focusing on a variety of materials based on silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, zircon dioxide and silver, the consortium aimed to better understand the behavior of nanomaterials in the body. The scientists investigated exposure, changes in the life cycle, uptake and distribution, toxicity, and mechanisms. Surface, functional groups and agglomeration were shown to strongly determine the behavior of nanoparticles in the cellular environment. Further, the scientists used a variety of toxicological tests including Ames tests, a micronucleus tests, short term inhalation studies and in vivo intratracheal instillation to evaluate toxicity. While nanosilver gave some responses in the micronucleus test used to evaluate genotoxicity, none of the other nanomaterials investigated were observed to be toxic. The scientists stated that their results cannot be generalized to other nanomaterials and that it would be important to group nanomaterials to comprehensively and efficiently evaluate their safety.
The NanoGEM project was part of the NanoCare initiative and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and partners from the chemical industry.