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Overview of Current Toxicological Knowledge of Engineered Nanoparticles

Castranova, Vincent PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue - p S14–S17
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31821b1e5a
Background: Original Article

Objective: Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce nanoparticles with unique properties, allowing new commercial applications. Since nanoparticles exhibit unique physicochemical properties, they are likely to exhibit biological activity significantly different from fine-sized particles of the same chemical composition. Therefore, evaluation of the biological effects of nanoparticles is critical.

Methods: The article lists the major objectives of nanotoxicology and briefly reviews the literature concerning biological responses to pulmonary exposure.

Results: Interactions of nanoparticles with biological systems depend on particle size, shape, oxidant generation, surface functionalization, and rate of dissolution. Pulmonary, cardiovascular, and central nervous system responses to pulmonary exposure to nanotitanium dioxide and carbon nanotubes are described.

Conclusions: Significant biological responses occur in animal models after pulmonary exposure to certain nanoparticles. Control of exposure appears prudent to protect worker health.

Clinical Significance: Nanotechnology is synthesizing a wide range of nanoparticles, which exhibit unique physicochemical properties. These unique properties make unique biological activity likely. If certain nanoparticles induce adverse effects in vitro or in animal models, then occupational health surveillance and exposure control may be prudent steps in the protection of worker health.

From the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV.

Address correspondence to: Vincent Castranova, PhD, NIOSH, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505; E-mail:

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author and do not represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Copyright © 2011 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine