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Arnold School of Public Health

Baalousha and Lead edit special issue on modelling for Environmental Science: Nano

April 11, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, 

Two faculty members from the Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk (CENR) in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences have edited a special issue on the topic of Modelling in Environmental Nanotechnology for the journal, Environmental Science: Nano. Assistant Professor Mohammed Baalousha and Professor and CENR Director Jamie Lead developed a proposal for the special-themed issue and submitted it to the journal after identifying a need for more publications in this topic area.

Lead organized and chaired a workshop on nanoparticle toxicity, fate and behavior modelling in London in 2013 to bring together a wide range of researchers involved in three large U.S.-U.K. collaborative consortia, funded by the United Kingdom Natural Environment Research Council, the United Kingdom Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. “I attended the workshop and thought that the topic deserved its own themed journal issue, discussed the idea with Dr. Lead, who is Principal Investigator of one of these consortia, and we agreed to develop a joint proposal for a themed issue” says Baalousha. “Then we discussed it with other scientists (Panos Georgopoulos, David Spurgeon, Gregory Lowry), who are members of the two other consortia, and they agreed to join us as guest editors when we proposed the idea of a special issue to the journal.”

The group believed at the time that this particular research area was undergoing rapid development and that a focused special theme issue would be timely and beneficial to the growing scientific community involved in research on nanomaterial fate, behavior and toxicity. While a significant amount of data had been generated regarding environmental fate and effects of nanomaterials, there were then few environmental fate and toxicity models available. “The consortia-based research and other research, as exemplified by the 2013 workshop and this special issue has helped develop this area to the extent that, in many cases, better experimental data are now urgently required to parameterize very sophisticated models, although model development is still required,” says Lead.

“Many models are being developed to study conventional contaminants and are being adapted to the case of nanomaterials,” Baalousha explains. “New models are also being developed to try to predict environmental behavior of nanomaterials; however, there is currently no consensus on the processes that must be included in models and the parameterization of those models.”

The resulting, newly released special issue helps fill this gap by providing a systematic overview of the state-of-the-art research in the field of modelling fate, behavior, exposure, uptake and toxicity of nanomaterials in the environment. It also outlines new developments in fundamental approaches and methodologies of modelling in this area.

“Predictive modelling of fate and effects of nanomaterials is a critical issue not only to improve the fundamental understanding of these processes but also for industry and policymakers to assess the potential risks resulting from use and release of engineered nanomaterials,” says Baalousha. “There is currently a large gap between the development of nanotechnology and nanostructures, the generation of environmental health and safety, or EHS, data and their appropriate regulation, due to the rapid pace of nanotechnology development and the slower pace of EHS understanding. Modelling fate and effects of nanomaterials is essential to overcome this gap, and the dissemination of current research through this special issue will help us take an important step toward building that knowledge base.”