Uncovering health and environmental risks of nanomaterials

Elsevier’s new journal NanoImpact publishes research on all aspects of nanosafety


Over the last decade, a wide variety of nanomaterials have been manufactured and used in different products, such as cosmetics, electronics, lubricant additives, thermoplastics, printing toners and building materials. Human and environmental exposures are inevitable, and the more widespread these nano enabled products become, the bigger the concerns around their safety and impact on human and environmental health.

NanoImpact infographic

The scientific literature reflects this surge in use and concern, with more than 10,000 papers published on nanosafety since 2000. While this research is vital, it hasn’t been as effective as it could have been because there has been no single place for such interdisciplinary research to be published, leaving scientists to disseminate their results through a number of different subject-specific journals, covering topics like chemistry, toxicology and environmental science.

To address this, we have launched NanoImpact – the first peer-reviewed nanosafety journal focusing on the full spectrum of multidisciplinary nanosafety research, from human and environmental exposure, nanotoxicology, disease, risk to lifecycle perspectives.

We celebrated the launch at the 2016 International Nanotoxicology Congress in Boston in May, which brought together scientists from academia, industry, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to present research findings and initiate new collaborations in an effort to ensure the safe implementation of nanotechnology. There was a great turnout, reflecting the growing interest in this area.

The first issue of the journal has now been published. In their editorial of the issue, the four co-Editors-in-Chief – Dr. Philip Demokritou, Dr. Guibin Jiang, Dr. Jamie Lead and Dr. Bernd Nowack – wrote:

Without a doubt, the rapid expansion of nanotechnology is a powerful scientific and economic force. However, we need to match this progress with careful evaluation of the possible environmental health and safety impacts of nanomaterials and nanotechnology across their life cycle, both to protect health and also to protect the sustainability and benefits of nanotechnology.

With NanoImpact, we aim to publish the most high quality, novel and rigorous science and technology in the field to support its continued growth.

Nanotechnology: unknown impacts

Nanomaterials are tiny particles on the nano scale – one-billionth of a meter – that can be engineered to have applications in a variety of settings. They are already used in medicine, electronics, cosmetics and bioremediation, and many other areas.

Because of their rapid and broad uptake, nanomaterials are already found in the environment and our bodies. They could be posing risks we are unaware of, so it’s important that researchers continue to assess the potential harmful effects of nanomaterials.

Take silver nanomaterials. Many antibacterial products contain silver nanomaterials that kill the bacteria, preventing, for example, hospital acquired infections; even retail clothing stores are starting to stock antibacterial pajamas for people to wear after an operation. Silver nanoparticles are known to be toxic to some organisms, and because they are so widely used and dispersed they pose a substantial – but as yet undefined – risk to people and the environment.

Prof. Jamie Lead, PhDAs nanomaterials continue to develop into new generation materials such as nanohybrids, which combine nano and other materials, they will become even smaller, multi-functional and more dispersible. NanoImpact co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jamie Lead, Professor and Director of the SmartState Center for Environmental Nanoscience & Risk at the University of South Carolina, said:

All these properties provide greater potential for benefit, but also greater potential to harm human and environmental health. The risk posed by nanomaterials is poorly understood because of a lack of detailed data, the novelty of the area and the potential novel behaviors of nanomaterials. But they are important emerging contaminants, so to protect health and ensure the long-term sustainability of the technology, these risks need to be understood, quantified and reduced.

Shedding light on nanosafety

NanoImpact aims to play an important role in disseminating knowledge about nanomaterials in human and environmental systems. It focuses on four main areas:

  • Human nanotoxicology – including the interactions between nanomaterials and biological systems (nano-bio interactions) at the cellular and organism level, mechanisms of disease development and in vitro and in vivo toxicity screening strategies
  • Nano-ecotoxicology – nano-bio interactions and effects on organism and ecosystem health
  • Exposure – release of nanomaterials throughout the life cycles of products and applications, the fate and behavior of nanomaterials in a variety of settings and the development and application of analytical methods to quantify and characterize the nanomaterials in environmental and biological media
  • Risk and life cycle assessment – human and environmental risk assessment, and development of life cycle assessment methods and use of life cycle perspectives

Prof. Bernd Nowack, PhDBy focusing on research in these areas, we hope to provide a central point of reference and contact for scientists working in this area from different angles. NanoImpact co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Bernd Nowack, who leads the Environmental Risk Assessment and Management Group at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, explained:

It can be difficult to find the right expert collaborators if you’re crossing over to an unfamiliar field in your multidisciplinary research. By pulling together all the research on nanosafety, we hope to connect researchers and support the multidisciplinary research that is so vital in this area.

Collaboration is key, added NanoImpact co-Editor-in-Chief Dr. Philip Demokritou, Director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology at Harvard University:

Only by working in an interdisciplinary manner across the exposure-disease continuum can we understand potential nano-specific risks and pave the way for a more sustainable nanotechnology industry. NanoImpact will stimulate such interdisciplinary research and safer-by-design approaches and bring together the application and implication communities and other stakeholders.


NanoImpact is a multidisciplinary journal that focuses on nanosafety research and areas related to the impacts of manufactured nanomaterials on human and environmental systems and the behavior of nanomaterials in these systems. It publishes articles on human nanotoxicology (nano-bio interactions and effects on human health), econanotoxicology (nano-bio interactions and effects on organism and ecosystem health), exposure (nanomaterial release, fate and behavior in the environment and human/engineered systems), risk assessment and life cycle assessment and other areas, such as the development of methodological and modelling approaches and the development of materials and methods to enhance nanosafety. This journal is published by Elsevier.

The co-Editors-in-Chief

Prof. Philip Demokritou

Prof. Philip Demokritou, PhDDr. Philip Demokritou is Director of the Center of Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology at Harvard University. His research interests are primarily in the areas of aerosol science and technology with emphasis on the elucidation of particulate matter (PM) health effects and environmental health and safety implications of engineered nanomatrerials (ENMs). His current research focuses on nanosafety and nano-bio interactions and the role of ENM structure on bioactivity. Dr. Demokritou holds 6 international/US patents and inventions licensed by Harvard to various companies in the fields of air pollution and nano-biology. He is a co-author of two books, numerous book chapters and hundreds of articles in leading journals and conference proceedings in the particle health effect and nanoscience fields. He is an Associate Professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and co-Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal NanoImpact.

Prof. Guibin Jiang

Prof. Guibin Jiang, PhDDr. Guibin Jiang is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the fellow of the World Academy of Sciences. He is Director-general of the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology. Prof. Jiang’s research is mainly focused on Environmental Analysis and Toxicology, he has co-edited 10 books and has published more than 600 papers in peer-reviewed international journals.

Prof. Jamie Lead

Dr. Jamie Lead is endowed Professor and Director of the SmartState Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk at the University of South Carolina. His research aims at understanding nanoscale phenomena in the environment and he is interested in investigating natural nanomaterials, manufactured nanomaterials and their interactions, behaviors and risks. His research is also engaged with “environmentally friendly” applications of nanomaterials. Dr. Lead is Honorary Professor and former and founding Director of the Facility for Environmental Nanoscience Analysis and Characterization, University of Birmingham, UK. He has published widely in the field, with more than 160 publications, and he has edited five books on natural and manufactured nanomaterials. Dr. Lead is a founding and current member of the organizing committee of the International Conference series on the Environmental Effects of Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials.

Prof. Bernd Nowack

Dr. Bernd Nowack leads the Environmental Risk Assessment and Management group at Empa – the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, and is adjunct professor at ETH Zurich. His current research deals with the chances and risks of engineered nanomaterials, comprising a wide spectrum of different approaches: development and application of methods for material flow modeling, exposure modeling, environmental risk assessment and life cycle assessment; experimental studies about release of nanomaterials from products and investigations about their behavior and effects in the environment. Dr. Nowack has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers and has an h-factor of 47. He is listed in “The World’s most influential scientific minds 2015” from Thomson Reuters, in the category “Environmental Sciences/Ecology”. He is also Associate Editor of the journal Environmental Pollution.



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