The potential of nanotechnology is huge, and its applications range as wide as medicine, beauty, IT, advanced materials and even food. But as a relatively new technology, scientists still have a lot to learn about nanoparticles.

Dr. Peter Hatto, Chair of the committee that developed the standard explains, “With the rapid expansion of nanotechnology applications comes a growing risk of exposure to potentially toxic substances, especially for workers in nanotechnology-based industries. Moreover, if airborne nanoparticles were liberated from products, the general public could also be affected. Ensuring the safety of these particles is therefore paramount for the well-being of workers and consumers.”

Carefully monitored tests are used to establish the inhalation toxicity of airborne nanoparticles. The new standard, ISO 10808:2010, Nanotechnologies – Characterization of nanoparticles in inhalation exposure chambers for inhalation toxicity testing, helps ensure that the results of such tests are reliable and harmonized worldwide.

Dr. Hatto adds, “In order to test inhalation toxicity it is necessary to monitor concentration, size and size-distribution of nanoscale particles in an inhalation chamber. Traditional methods used in other areas are considered insufficient for testing nanoparticles since parameters specific to them like particle surface area or number, might be crucial determinants of toxicity. ISO 10808 takes into account the particular characteristics and potential risks of nanoparticles, and is thus an important asset to the industry.”

ISO 10808 establishes a battery of inhalation toxicity testing chamber monitoring, including a differential mobility analyzing system (DMAS), for determining particle number, size, size-distribution, surface area and estimated mass dose, as well as morphological examination using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or scanning electron microscopy (SEM) equipped with an energy dispersive X-ray analyzer (EDXA) for chemical composition.  

ISO 10808:2010, Nanotechnologies – Characterization of nanoparticles in inhalation exposure chambers for inhalation toxicity testing, was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 229, Nanotechnologies, and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details). It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price 92 Swiss francs through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication & Information department (see right-hand column).