Addressing concerns

The rapid progress of the nanosciences and the spread of nanotechnologies and nano-based products, in particular in the fields of medicine, beauty and cosmetics, IT, advanced materials, food and even packaging, are raising concerns among researchers, manufacturers, regulators and consumers. This is “a relatively new technology, scientists still have a lot to learn about nanoparticles,” says the ISO in a release.

Dr. Peter Hatto, Chair of the committee that developed the standard explains, “With the rapid expansion of nanotechnology applications comes a growing risk of exposure to potentially toxic substances, especially for workers in nanotechnology-based industries. Moreover, if airborne nanoparticles were liberated from products, the general public could also be affected. Ensuring the safety of these particles is therefore paramount for the well-being of workers and consumers.

Developed by the ISO technical committee devoted to nanotechnologies (ISO/TC 229), the new ISO 10808:2010 “Nanotechnologies - Characterization of nanoparticles in inhalation exposure chambers for inhalation toxicity testing” aims to address a part of these issues.

Inhalation tests

The purpose of the standard is to ensure that the results of existing inhalation tests measuring the inhalation toxicity of airborne nanoparticles are reliable and harmonized worldwide.

In order to test inhalation toxicity it is necessary to monitor concentration, size and size-distribution of nanoscale particles in an inhalation chamber. Traditional methods used in other areas are considered insufficient for testing nanoparticles since parameters specific to them like particle surface area or number, might be crucial determinants of toxicity. ISO 10808 takes into account the particular characteristics and potential risks of nanoparticles, and is thus an important asset to the industry,” Dr. Hatto adds.

ISO 10808 establishes a battery of inhalation toxicity testing chamber monitoring, including

- a differential mobility analyzing system (DMAS), for determining particle number, size, size-distribution, surface area and estimated mass dose,
- as well as morphological examination using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or scanning electron microscopy (SEM) equipped,
- and an energy dispersive X-ray analyzer (EDXA) for chemical composition.