The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded 14 grants totaling $5 million to universities to investigate potential health and environmental effects of manufactured nanomaterials. Nanotechnology has the potential to transform environmental clean-up, treat serious illnesses, and improve computer technology and the EPA want to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.Nanomaterials are created by working at the molecular level, atom by atom, and range in size from one to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is 80,000 times smaller than a human hair. Because of their small size and unique properties, more research is needed to learn if nanoparticles in manufactured products can enter the human body, and if so, how long they remain. Similarly, researchers will study the fate and transport of nanoparticles in the environment. "This emerging field has the potential to transform environmental protection. Researchers are now testing iron nanoparticles that could clean up pollutants in large areas of groundwater cheaper and more effectively than any existing techniques," said George Gray, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development. "At the same time, we must understand whether nanomaterials could negatively impact health or the environment. This research will help determine the viability of nanotechnology as a tool for protecting our environment." Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA has a program to review and assess new chemicals prior to their entry into commerce. The agency is also working with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a stewardship program that will allow EPA to gain a better understanding of the benefits and risks associated with nanomaterials. The nanotechnology grants were awarded through the EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). To date, EPA has funded 65 grants for more than $22 million related to the environmental applications and/or implications of manufactured nanomaterials. In addition, EPA has awarded about $2.5 million for nanotechnology research to small businesses through its Small Business Innovation Research program.
EPA Nanotechnology STAR Grants The grants funded by EPA were awarded to the following universities: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., $375,000 – Researchers will develop critical data and predictive tools needed to assess the health and environmental impacts of dendritic or highly branched nanomaterials. CIIT Centers for Health Research, Research Triangle Park, N.C., $375,000 – Scientists will develop models to predict the localized deposition of inhaled nanomaterials in the respiratory tract of rats and humans.
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., $375,000 - The objective of this research is to determine whether drinking water treatment will affect certain nanoparticles called fullerenes, molecules composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid or tube. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., $375,000 - The objective of this research is to investigate the fate and transport of fullerenes in soil. Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, N.M., $375,000 – Researchers will investigate whether the sizes and compositions of metal oxide powders influence their persistence and toxicity, and where they deposit in the body. NYU School of Medicine, Tuxedo, N.Y., $375,000 – Researchers will investigate the biological impacts of aggregates of nanoparticles in the lungs. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $375,000 – Researchers will develop Life Cycle Inventory data and thermodynamics-based modules for evaluating the environmental impacts associated with the synthesis and use of nanoclays and nanofibres. Rice University, Houston, Texas, $375,000 – Researchers will determine whether the structure of nanoparticles is related to their impacts on human health. Rice University, Houston, Texas, $375,000 – This study will improve our understanding of the chemical and physical factors that control nanoparticle mobility and bioavailability and their impacts on microbial activities, diversity and community structure. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Ill., $375,000 – Researchers will determine whether certain nanoparticles affect the survival, growth, development, egg hatchability, and metamorphosis of the fathead minnow and a species of frog.
University of Florida-Gainesville, Gainesville, Fla., $375,000 -- The goal of this project is to develop an understanding of the potentially complex interplay between manufactured nanomaterials and the health of organisms and ecosystems. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $363,680 – Researchers will determine whether particle size influences the bioavailability of nanosized zinc oxide and the potential for manufactured nanoparticles to be transferred through the food chain. University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla., $375,000 – Researchers will study accumulation and release of a wide range of manufactured nanomaterials in the soil, emphasizing the interactions with air/water interfaces and specific mineral surfaces. West Virginia University, Morgantown, W. Va., $375,000 – Scientists will determine the effects of commercially available nanomaterials on the human blood coagulation system.
The grants funded by NSF totaling $911,640 were awarded to the following universities: Houston Advanced Research Center, Houston, Texas, $300,000 – Human cells will be exposed to engineered nanomaterials and their toxicity will be assessed using the innovative technology of high throughput gene expression microarrays. University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $261,640 – Researchers will determine whether the toxicity mechanisms of macro-sized dissolved heavy metals are similar to that of metallic nanoparticles. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va., $350,000 – Researchers will explore the transport, transformation, and fate of manufactured nanomaterials in atmospheric, aquatic, and terrestrial environments.
The grants funded by NIOSH totaling more than $654,299 million were awarded to the following universities: University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, $399,906 – Researchers are seeking to assess airborne levels of nanoparticles and to assess the efficacy of respirator use in controlling nanoparticle exposure. New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo, N.Y., $254,393 – Researchers will develop a comprehensive, practical method for sampling, quantifying, and characterizing carbon nanotube particles in air. For more information on the nanotechnology STAR grants, visit the Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/nano2005