Published: 13-10-2010 00:00 | Updated: 26-11-2013 10:33

Conference on the hazards of nanotechnology

[PRESS INVITATION 2010-10-13] Nanotechnology offers great development opportunities to a wide range of important fields, but it can also have a harmful impact on human health and the environment. The latest on the potential hazards of nanotechnology are to be presented at a symposium at Karolinska Institutet.

Journalists are welcome to attend the conference The 2nd International Mini-Symposium on Nanotoxicology

  • When: Monday 23 October, 8:30 am - 5:15 pm
  • Where: The Nobel Forum, Nobels väg 1, Solna campus, Karolinska Institutet

Nanomaterials, which contain nanoscale particles one-billionth of a meter in dimension, are becoming an increasingly common component of everyday products, from cosmetics, sun-screens and food packaging to sports articles such as badminton rackets and cycle helmets. Scientists predict that nanomaterials will also be of major significance in the development of computers and in energy production.

"There are a great many studies on cells and animals suggesting that nanomaterials can have damaging effects on the health and the environment," says conference organiser Professor Bengt Fadeel, vice chairman at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. "When you shrink material down to the nanoscale, you change their properties and we still don´t really understand which properties are hazardous."

One such material that has proved to be associated with health risks are carbon nanotubes, a material that is both lighter and stronger than steel. Several of the talks at the symposium, which will be bringing together world-leading scientists in the field, will be centring on the risks of carbon nanotubes. Animals exposed to these materials have developed health problems such as lung diseases and symptoms not unlike those caused by asbestos.

"There are serious fears that carbon nanotubes might have the same harmful properties as asbestos fibres," says Professor Fadeel. "The question is whether nanotubes are also carcinogenic."

The danger of nanomaterials is related to how easy it is for the body to break the particles down, and new research shows that there are mechanisms in the white blood cells for doing just this. This could open the way for using nanomaterials in healthcare, for example as a contrast material in medical imaging.

The conference will also be dealing with risk assessment. What is the maximum level of nanoparticles that should be allowed in the workplace and how is data from animal studies to be translated into humans?

The symposium is arranged by Karolinska Institutet, and is supported by the EU´s Seventh Framework Programme through the NANOMMUNE project.

"The very concept of nanotoxicology came about in 2004 or 2005," says Professor Fadeel. "Much has happened since then, but there are still many questions that need answering. To this end, a number of large research centres in the field have been established in the USA and Europe."

Leading scientists at these centres will now be coming to Stockholm to share their experiences in this important field.

The symposium is an official event of Karolinska Institutet´s 200th jubilee.

For the full programme, see:

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