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





Overall findings from the project NanoUmwelt (2014 - 2017)

Aim of the project NanoUmwelt was to quantify the entry of engineered nanomaterials into various environmental compartments, to characterise their form of appearance and to develop a deeper understanding of their eco- and human-toxicological impact using novel analytical methodologies and scientifically sound analyses. The data generated within NanoUmwelt shall serve as a reliable basis for a realistic risk assessment of nanomaterials after their entry into the environment and for the development of appropriate recommendations for novel regulations with regard to the protection of human life and the environment.


Against this background, NanoUmwelt had dealt with three different tasks:

  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


The most important developments within NanoUmwelt are:

  • A standardised sample preparation protocol for the analysis of engineered nanomaterials in complex human and environmental samples such as human blood, fish tissues and mussels
  • Powerful analytical methodologies based on Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Immunoassays (ABICAP) and Asymmetrical Flow Field-Flow Fractionation (AF4) for the quantification and characterization of engineered nanomaterials in complex human- and environmental samples down to trace levels (<µg/L)
  • Novel in vitro- and ex vivo-models for the investigation of human-toxicological effects of nanomaterials based on endpoints like cardiotoxicity, immune reaction, differentiation potential and transport across biological barriers
  • Novel model systems for the investigation of ecotoxicological effects of nanomaterials


The most important findings of NanoUmwelt are:

  • The concentrations of engineered nanomaterials in all investigated real samples were below the limits of quantification of the analytical methodologies developed within NanoUmwelt
  • A long-term exposure of silver (AgPure) and polystyrene nanoparticles in soil has significant impact on soil microbial and enzyme activities as well as the functional diversity of the soil microbial community (;
  • Uptake of polystyrene nanoparticles into human cells could be observed, however, no influence on the cell viability was evident in the low-dose range
  • No conclusive statement on the permeability of biological barriers for engineered nanomaterials can be drawn, yet
  • Model systems of the intestinal and placental barrier represent very suitable tools for the investigation of the transport of nanomaterials in the human organism. The selection of the respective model (2D-in vitro, 3D-in vitro or ex vivo) is crucial with regard to the results of the performed studies. It could be demonstrated that, depending on the applied model system, nanoparticles can partially induce different effects. Hence, the proper choice of the applied model system is a very critical parameter in human toxicology



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)




Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology

Particles-Biology Interactions Lab,
Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St. Gallen (CH)


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