With the rapid growth of nanotechnology and future bulk manufacture of nanomaterials comes the need to determine, understand and counteract any adverse health effects of these materials that may occur during manufacture, during use, or accidentally. Nanotechnology is expanding rapidly and will affect many aspects of everyday life; there are already hundreds of products that utilize nanoparticles. Paradoxically, the unique properties that are being exploited (e.g. high surface reactivity and ability to cross cell membranes) might have negative health impacts. The rapid progress in development and use of nanomaterials is not yet matched by toxicological investigations. Epidemiological studies implicate the ultrafine (nano-sized) fraction of particulate air pollution in the exacerbation of cardiorespiratory disease and increased morbidity. Experimental animal studies suggest that the increased concentration of nanoparticles and higher reactive surface area per unit mass, alongside unique chemistry and functionality, is important in the acute inflammatory and chronic response. Some animal models have shown that nanoparticles which are deposited in one organ (e.g. lung and gut) may access the vasculature and target other organs (e.g. brain and liver). The exact relationship between the physicochemistry of a nanoparticle, its cellular reactivity, and its biological and systemic consequences cannot be predicted. It is important to understand such relationships to enjoy the benefits of nanotechnology without being exposed to the hazards.

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