South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
GULUMIAN, Mary; KUEMPEL, Eileen D. and SAVOLAINEN, Kai. Global challenges in the risk assessment of nanomaterials: relevance to South Africa. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2012, vol.108, n.9-10, pp. 1-9. ISSN 1996-7489.
Internationally, there are efforts to develop standardised toxicity testing and risk assessment methods for engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). To this end, health risk assessments need to be conducted on ENMs synthesised in South Africa. Country-specific risk characterisation requires specific exposure assessments for those ENMs for which the likelihood exists for occupational and environmental exposure in that country. A challenge in hazard identification and risk assessment related to ENMs, regardless of country of origin, is that data on toxicity, carcinogenicity, pharmacokinetics, and occupational or environmental exposure are generally not available for most ENMs. Although the mechanisms previously identified as important in the toxicity and carcinogenicity of particles and fibres may be applicable, the possibility exists that the unusual physicochemical properties of ENMs may give rise to unique, and as yet unidentified, adverse effects. Moreover, generalised exposure scenarios that consider the life cycle of the agent have not been developed and are needed for the complete risk characterisation of ENMs. As health risk assessment is both resource and labour intensive, it is imperative to identify the aims of such an exercise prior to embarking on large-scale projects, to ensure that the data most useful for public health decision-making is provided. Identifying priorities in South Africa, in coordination with international efforts, can facilitate the effective use of research efforts for risk assessment and risk management decision-making.