Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are being applied in various nanotechnology products and are used in consumer products such as cosmetics and food; fertilizers; synthetic organs or engineered microbes, or self-assembling materials that assemble into new structures in the body upon their release; and molecular devices used in genetic therapy.
People may be exposed to ENMs in their free or embedded forms occupationally during the manufacturing process and professional uses, during consumer product use, or due to ENM presence in the environment after release. ENMs may be associated with environmental and human health hazards, resulting in harmful effects on human health, and have been shown to have the ability to influence the immune system. Extensive research conducted in the past 20 years has shown that not only the chemistry of nanomaterials but also their size, shape and surface characteristics influence the interaction of ENMs with biological systems.
Environmental Health Criteria document n. 244 presents an overview of the current knowledge and evidence on principles and basic mechanisms of immunotoxicity caused by ENMs. Guidance is provided on principles and methods for hazard and risk assessment of different ENMs and groups of ENMs on the immunological system in the body. The key cell types and elements and the functioning of the human immunological system are described, and information provided on the effects of various ENMs on these cells and elements of the immune system.
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