Practical considerations for conducting ecotoxicity test methods with manufactured nanomaterials: what have we learnt so far?
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This review paper reports the consensus of a technical workshop hosted by the European network, NanoImpactNet (NIN). The workshop aimed to review the collective experience of working at the bench with manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs), and to recommend modifications to existing experimental methods and OECD protocols. Current procedures for cleaning glassware are appropriate for most MNMs, although interference with electrodes may occur. Maintaining exposure is more difficult with MNMs compared to conventional chemicals. A metal salt control is recommended for experiments with metallic MNMs that may release free metal ions. Dispersing agents should be avoided, but if they must be used, then natural or synthetic dispersing agents are possible, and dispersion controls essential. Time constraints and technology gaps indicate that full characterisation of test media during ecotoxicity tests is currently not practical. Details of electron microscopy, dark-field microscopy, a range of spectroscopic methods (EDX, XRD, XANES, EXAFS), light scattering techniques (DLS, SLS) and chromatography are discussed. The development of user-friendly software to predict particle behaviour in test media according to DLVO theory is in progress, and simple optical methods are available to estimate the settling behaviour of suspensions during experiments. However, for soil matrices such simple approaches may not be applicable. Alternatively, a Critical Body Residue approach may be taken in which body concentrations in organisms are related to effects, and toxicity thresholds derived. For microbial assays, the cell wall is a formidable barrier to MNMs and end points that rely on the test substance penetrating the cell may be insensitive. Instead assays based on the cell envelope should be developed for MNMs. In algal growth tests, the abiotic factors that promote particle aggregation in the media (e.g. ionic strength) are also important in providing nutrients, and manipulation of the media to control the dispersion may also inhibit growth. Controls to quantify shading effects, and precise details of lighting regimes, shaking or mixing should be reported in algal tests. Photosynthesis may be more sensitive than traditional growth end points for algae and plants. Tests with invertebrates should consider non-chemical toxicity from particle adherence to the organisms. The use of semi-static exposure methods with fish can reduce the logistical issues of waste water disposal and facilitate aspects of animal husbandry relevant to MMNs. There are concerns that the existing bioaccumulation tests are conceptually flawed for MNMs and that new test(s) are required. In vitro testing strategies, as exemplified by genotoxicity assays, can be modified for MNMs, but the risk of false negatives in some assays is highlighted. In conclusion, most protocols will require some modifications and recommendations are made to aid the researcher at the bench.
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