Toxicity of fibers, particles, and nanomaterials

© Photo Fraunhofer ITEM

Protection of consumer safety and health are increasingly important aspects in the commercialization of products. Fraunhofer ITEM has more than 20 years of experience in conducting studies with fibers and particles. Uptake by inhalation is of particular interest in this context. In addition to commonly used fiber and (nano-)particle aerosols, our state-of-the-art technical equipment allows us to generate also sophisticated exposure atmospheres (e.g. occupationally relevant bitumen aerosols).

The focus of our research is above all on poorly soluble particles in environmentally relevant atmospheres and after occupational exposure, but we also explore the toxicokinetics of particles retained in the lungs and mechanisms of toxic effects.

In the past few years, not only fine particles but also engineered nanoparticles (< 0.1 µm) with their wide range of different applications have become a focus of interest in toxicology. In addition to projects on behalf of clients from industry, we have recently conducted numerous investigations for the public sector, for example on behalf of the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the German Federal Environmental Agency, and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Besides the traditional regulatory endpoints, we also address other innovative endpoints by using, for example, gene expression and immunohistochemical analyses and techniques. In-vitro (cell cultures and P.R.I.T.® ALI) and ex-vivo models (precision-cut lung slices, PCLS; isolated perfused lung) are also employed. The know-how resulting from these projects enables industry to produce substances with a minimized hazard potential.

We are currently involved in the following projects for the public sector

Inhalation and instillation

Comparison of inhalation and instillation as testing methods for characterisation of granular biopersistent particles (GBP)

Nanomaterials

Testing methods for nanomaterials in the regulatory framework of chemical safety - BAuA contribution to "Regulatory testing of nanomaterials (NanoReg)" in the 7th EU framework program for research