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Measurement science challenges that complicate the assessment of the potential ecotoxicological risks of carbon nanomaterials



Elijah J. Petersen


While substantial progress has been made on the assessment of the potential ecotoxicological risks of some carbon nanomaterials (CNMs) during the past decade, there are still significant metrology challenges that hinder this assessment. I will write from the perspective of a government scientist working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a national metrology institute. The focus of our work is to raise the quality of nanotechnology environmental health and safety data by improving the nanomaterial measurement infrastructure. We accomplish this through, for example, the production of standard reference materials (SRMs) (e.g., NIST SRM 2483 (single-wall carbon nanotubes raw soot) and 8281 (single-wall carbon nanotubes dispersed in three length-resolved populations)) and development of accurate, validated methods. Thus, my focus will be on the measurement science aspect of the potential ecotoxicological risks rather than judging whether they bring more risk or benefit to the environment. In this perspective, I will discuss the following topics that currently hinder ecological risk assessment of carbon nanomaterials and provide suggestions for improvements: lack of consistent nomenclature/definitions, shape and element-related characterization challenges, complications from a lack of aqueous stability for many CNMs, artifacts in CNM nanoecotoxicology tests, and uncertainty regarding the extent to which the potential effects of pristine CNMs accurately represent those from from CNM-enabled consumer products.
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


Petersen, E. (2015), Measurement science challenges that complicate the assessment of the potential ecotoxicological risks of carbon nanomaterials, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, [online], (Accessed June 23, 2024)


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Created April 1, 2015, Updated February 19, 2017