On June 2, 2008 the Organization  for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the first stage in its effort to study the impacts of certain nanoparticles.   In 2006, the OECD formed its Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials to implement the "Project on Safety Testing of a Representative Set of Manufactured Nanomaterials."  The Project was divided into two parts: 1) develop a priority list of nanomaterials currently, or soon to be, in commerce, for health impact study, and 2) develop a program for the testing and understanding of those nanomaterials.  The June 2 report is the culmination of the first step–the creation of list of nanomaterials to be studied.

The full report can be found here, and includes both the list of materials to be studied as well as the focus areas for the study.  OECD determined that fourteen materials will receive initial study.  Each was identified due to their presence in the commercial market, or the near-term commercial applications.  As such, OECD considers the list a "snapshot in time" of the nanomaterials that are of importance now.  Specifically, OECD will study (in no particular order):

  • Fullerenes (C60)
  • Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) 
  • Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) 
  • Silver nanoparticles 
  • Iron nanoparticles 
  • Carbon black 
  • Titanium dioxide 
  • Aluminum oxide 
  • Cerium oxide 
  • Zinc oxide 
  • Silicon dioxide 
  • Polystyrene
  • Dendrimers 
  • Nanoclays 

Additionally, the Working Group will study each of the above for the following metrics: Information and identification, Physical and chemical properties, Environmental fate, Environmental toxicology, Mammalian toxicology, and Material safety.

While no date has been set for the release of the completion of step two, the results of the study, this is an important step in determining the risks and benefits of commercially available nanomaterials.  Clearly, this is an aggressive undertaking, and time will be needed to complete the full report in a way that is thorough and useful.  Keep and eye out for the results of this important study.