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NanoUmwelt - Risk analysis of engineered nanomaterials in the environment: identification, quantification and analysis of the human- and ecotoxicological effects






With the increasing application of nanotechnology-based consumer products a steadily rising entry of nanomaterials (NM) in the environment is expected. Besides the eco- and human-toxicological effect, increasing attention is given to the fate and behaviour of engineered nanomaterials in the environment.

Against this background, the scope of the project NanoUmwelt is to quantify the entry of engineered nanomaterials in the various environmental compartments, to characterise their form of appearance and to gain scientifically sound statements on the eco- and human-toxicological impact using novel technologies and meaningful analysis. The generated data serve as a basis for a realistic risk assessment of the nanomaterials after their entry into the environment and for the development of appropriate recommendations for novel regulations with regard towards the protection of human life and the environment.

The main focus of NanoUmwelt is on the development of technologies for

  1. the detection and quantification of smallest amounts of nanomaterials (< ng/L or < ng/kg) in environmental and human samples
  2. the in vitro investigation of the human- and ecotoxicity in the low-dose range
  3. the standardised and reproducible synthesis of nanomaterials


Nanoumwelt project plan


Technologies developed within NanoUmwelt allow the extensive evaluation of the nanomaterials regarding their stability, mobility, functionality and reactivity in the various matrices of the human and environmental samples addressed within this project. Apart from high-resolution optical determination methods such as scanning- and transmission electron microscopy, methods for the enrichment of nanomaterials such as immunofiltration and field-flow fractionation are applied, whose hyphenation with inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry and dynamic light scattering enables the comprehensive characterisation of the nanomaterials. Those detection methods are initially evaluated using NM-spiked samples followed by their application for quantifying nanomaterials in real-world samples (soil compartments, sewage sludge, waters), representative organisms of functionally relevant ecosystem compartments (earthworm, mussel, fish) and human samples (blood, urine). Moreover, thus obtained data are used for the evaluation of nanotoxic effects in the low-dose range.

Within this project, particular attention is given to the commercially relevant, persistent engineered nanomaterials such as metallic and metal oxidic (silver, titanium dioxide), carbonic (multi-walled carbon nanotubes) and polymer-based nanomaterials (polystyrene).

NanoUmwelt is the first study to detect and quantify nanomaterials in selected, functionally relevant eco-compartments. Additional investigations of the genotoxicity and cardiotoxicity of the used nanomaterials as well as their interaction with biological interfaces and barriers, especially the human placenta, enable statements on the barrier permeability, thus allowing an evaluation of the risk potential of nanomaterials for human life and the environment.

The collaboration of the interdisciplinary consortium consisting of experts in the fields of ecotoxicology, human toxicology, physics, chemistry and biology, for the first time enables the detection of engineered nanomaterials in human and environmental samples, a comprehensive characterisation and the consideration of potential alterations of the nanomaterials induced by interaction with the environment.

Taking into account already established standard operating procedures and reference materials, NanoUmwelt provides an essential contribution to answer the questions of the fate and the risk potential of nanomaterials. Hence, NanoUmwelt contributes to a detailed risk assessment allowing a safer handling of nanomaterials in the future and protecting human life and the environment from potential risks, thus facilitating to take appropriate protection measures if necessary.


  • Press Release (18.08.2015). On the Track of Nanomaterials - Researchers pave the way for realistic risk assessment of nanomaterials in the environment, Press release from the NanoUmwelt Consortium (PDF, 300 KB)


BMBF Grant No.: 03X0150

Duration:01.10.2014 - 31.12.2017

Project Lead

Dr. Florian Meier, Postnova Analytics GmbH, Landsberg am Lech (DE)



Project Partners

Umwelt Bundesamt

Umweltbundesamt (UBA), Berlin (DE)

PlasmaChem GmbH

PlasmaChem GmbH, Berlin (DE)





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