Bernd Nowack

Bernd Nowack
Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology | Empa · Technology and Society Lab

Prof. Dr.

About

264
Publications
89,342
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Introduction
My current research deals with the environmental risks of engineered nanomaterials, nanobiomaterials and plastics/ microplastics, comprising a wide spectrum of different approaches: development of methods for material flow modeling, exposure modeling and environmental risk assessment; experimental studies about release of materials from products; investigations about their behavior in the environment and meta-analyses.
Additional affiliations
August 2006 - present
Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
Position
  • Group Leader

Publications

Publications (264)
Article
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Plastics have become omnipresent in healthcare but quantitative data on mass flows are scarce. This study, therefore, performed a material flow analysis of single-use medical plastics and their packaging in a surgical hospital in Germany. We quantified the flows of eight different polymers across six product categories of medical consumables, based...
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Today’s scarcity of animal toxicological data for nanomaterials could be lifted by substituting in vivo data with in vitro data to calculate nanomaterials’ effect factors (EF) for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Here, we present a step-by-step procedure to calculate in vitro-to-in vivo extrapolation factors to estimate human Benchmark Doses and subseq...
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Synthetic fibers, especially polyester, have over past decades managed to overtake and dominate the textile industry. Microplastic fibers are shed from synthetic textiles during their user phase, primarily during washing. However, there is little known about their origin, except that they are likely embedded in textiles already since their producti...
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Fragrance encapsulates (FEs) are designed to deliver fragrance components notably in laundry care products. They are made of thermoset polymeric shells surrounding the fragrance content. These materials enter the environment mainly during laundry washing, but little is known about their distribution in and impact on the environment. The aim of this...
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Tire wear particle (TWP) emissions are gaining more attention since they are considered to contribute a major share to the overall microplastic emissions and are suspected to be harmful to flora, fauna and humans. Hence, recent studies derived country-based TWP emissions to better understand the significance of the problem using either tire emissio...
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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) are bioaccumulative pollutants that endanger bovine food safety. Bioaccumulation depends, among others, on the physiological dynamics of the cow's reproductive cycle. However, recent studies have focused only on near steady-state situations. Thus, the effects of animal p...
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Understanding the bioaccumulation of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) is essential for regulatory decisions on potential environmental risks. Research in the field of ENMs bioaccumulation has increased in recent years, but the compilation and statistical analysis of the available experimental data has not been updated. We therefore performed a meta‐...
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The growing number of nanomaterials being produced represents a challenge for the assessment of their toxicity impacts in life cycle assessment (LCA). The human toxicity effect factor, indicating the population incidence risk caused by chemical exposure, is traditionally estimated from in vivo animal test data; however, this kind of study is being...
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Evaluating the potential risks of nanomaterials on human health is fundamental to assure their safety. To do so, Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) relies mostly on animal studies to provide information about nanomaterials toxicity. The scarcity of such data, due to the shift of the nanotoxicology field away from a phenomenological, animal-based a...
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Nanoplastics (defined here as plastic particles smaller than 1000 nm) released during the daily use of plastic products are gaining increasing attention due to their potential effects on human and environmental health. Formation of nanoplastics has been reported so far for diverse plastic products under varying conditions of use. The washing of syn...
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Detailed knowledge about polymer flows through the anthroposphere and into the environment is information essential to the better management of plastics. Currently, only limited knowledge about specific polymer flows is available. This work aimed to model those flows for five polymers: polyurethane (PUR), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), poly...
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The determination of the environmental concentration of a pollutant is a crucial step in the risk assessment of anthropogenic substances. Dynamic probabilistic material flow analysis (DPMFA) is a method to predict flows of substances to the environment that can be converted into environmental concentrations. In cases where direct quantitative measu...
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Information on the flows of specific polymers through the anthroposphere forms the basis of any assessment of the environmental implications of plastic. This work presents a dynamic probabilistic material flow analysis of seven commodity thermoplastics: low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyre...
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Microplastics are ubiquitous in ecosystems and a lot of research is being performed to understand their environmental fate and effects on organisms. However, the release and impact of MP has so far not been considered in LCA studies. This is due to missing information on the inventory side about microplastic releases and missing Characterization Fa...
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Fiber fragments are one of the dominant types of microplastics in environmental samples, suggesting that synthetic textiles are a potential source of microplastics to the environment. Whereas the release of microplastics during washing of textiles is already well studied, much less is known about the release during abrasion processes. The abrasion...
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The release of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) to the environment necessitates an assessment of their environmental risks. The currently available environmental risk assessments for ENM are based on an analysis of the total flows of a specific ENM to the environment and on ecotoxicity studies performed with pristine ENM. ENM are known to undergo tra...
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Nanobiomaterials (NBMs) are a special category of nanomaterials used in medicine. As applications of NBMs are very similar to pharmaceuticals, their environmental release patterns are likely similar as well. Different pharmaceuticals were detected in surface waters all over the world. Consequently, there exists a need to identify possible NBM expos...
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Numerous studies have made the ubiquitous presence of plastic in the environment undeniable, and thus it no longer comes as a surprise when scientists measure the accumulation of macroplastic litter and microplastic fragments in both urban and remote sites. Nanoplastics have recently emerged in the discussions of scientists, regulators and the publ...
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Uncertainties remain regarding the potential environmental risks of engineered nanomaterials, reflecting missing information on both the exposure and the hazard sides. Probabilistic material flow analysis (PMFA) is a useful exposure assessment tool that maps the flows of a substance through its lifecycle towards the environment, taking into account...
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Most of the existing exposure models for engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) do not consider particle size, crystalline forms, and coating materials that all may influence the material’s fate, transport, and toxicity. Our work aimed to incorporate particle size distributions into a material flow analysis (MFA) to develop a size-specific, dynamic, proba...
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Food of animal origin accounts for >90% of the overall human exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Food regulatory maximum levels help to control this exposure, but bovine meat has been found to be prone to exceed those occasionally. In order to ensure the chemical safety of bovine meat, the aim was to explore the dependency of the bioconce...
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Microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment and given the large number of published hazard and exposure studies, quantitative environmental risks assessments of microplastics become feasible. We present here the first environmental risk assessment for marine waters based only on measured concentrations. The Thevariability and uncertainty of the...
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Nanobiomaterials (NBMs) are currently being tested in numerous biomedical applications, and their use is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. Many different types of nanomaterials are employed for a wide variety of different applications. Silver nanoparticles (nano-Ag) have been investigated for their antibacterial, antifungal, and osteoind...
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With the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing facemasks became common. Many initiatives arose to develop new types of reusable textile masks in order to overcome a shortage of surgical masks for the health care personnel and for the civil society. Having such high demand of facemasks raises the question about what factors define their environmental sustainab...
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The consequences that engineered nanomaterials (ENM) may cause in the environment have been under investigation for more than 15 years. Hundreds of Millions Euro/$ have been invested into safety issues of ENMs and much progress has been made in the understanding of their fate and effects in the environment. After an initial phase of “observing the...
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The convergence of nanotechnology and biotechnology has led to substantial advancements in nano-biomaterials (NBMs) used in medical devices (MD) and advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMP). However, there are concerns that applications of NBMs for medical diagnostics, Materials 2020, 13, 4532 2 of 29 therapeutics and regenerative medicine could...
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There is an emerging concern about the potential health and environmental impacts of nanoplastics in the environment. Despite the lack of information on the exposure side, there is a growing number of ecotoxicological hazard data available which enable to conduct a hazard assessment for nanoplastics in freshwater and marine systems. Based on a crit...
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This review aims to elucidate the current knowledge and future research needs regarding the hazard potential of nanocellulose to human health. Growing interest from research and industry alike has led to increasing likelihood of human contact to the material via various exposure routes. Although a number of comprehensive reviews on human health haz...
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Soils have been shown to be a major sink for plastic that is released to the environment. Several agricultural practices have been identified that can result in large plastic flows onto soils, among them the use of plastic‐polluted compost and digestate. However, the magnitude of this flow is currently still unclear. The aim of this work was to qua...
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Knowledge on the material flows of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) is crucial for assessing their environmental risks. Waste management processes constitute important parts of material flow analyses as they affect large fractions of the ENMs. Accordingly, their detailed representation could substantially improve the models. Our goal was to consider...
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Large disparities on micro- and macroplastic concentrations are to be expected between residential, industrial, natural and agricultural areas, since specific uses of plastic will determine the magnitude of the corresponding emissions. The aim of this work was to develop a method to regionalize emissions of macroplastic and microplastic for soil, f...
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Species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) are used in chemical safety assessments to derive predicted-no-effect-concentrations (PNECs) for substances with a sufficient amount of relevant and reliable ecotoxicity data available. For engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), ecotoxicity data are often compromised by poor reproducibility and the high level of n...
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Microplastic fibers (MPF) are often detected in waste water treatment plants and environmental samples, which implies a pathway of MPF release from domestic washing of textiles into the environment. Although there are many textile washing/release studies, it is still unclear to what extent the liberated MPFs originate from processes during washing...
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Microplastic fibers (MPFs) have been found to be a major form of microplastics in freshwaters, and washing of synthetic textiles has been identified as one of their main sources. The aim of this work was to use a panel of 12 different textiles of representative fibers and textile types to investigate the source(s) of the MPF during washing. Using s...
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In line with the 3R concept, nanotoxicology is shifting from a phenomenological to a mechanistic approach based on in vitro and in silico methods, with a consequent reduction in animal testing. Risk Assessment (RA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies, which traditionally rely on in vivo toxicity studies, will not be able to keep up with t...
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The major theme of the NRC report “Toxicity Testing in the Twenty-first Century” is to replace animal testing by using alternative in vitro methods. Therefore, it can be expected that in the future in vivo data will be replaced with in vitro data. Hence, there is a need for new strategies to make use of the increasing amount of in vitro data when d...
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The growth in development and use of nanobiomaterials (NBMs) has raised questions regarding their possible distribution in the environment. Because most NBMs are not yet available on the market and exposure monitoring is thus not possible, prospective exposure modeling is the method of choice to get information on their future environmental exposur...
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The chemical composition and properties of environmental media determine nanomaterial (NM) transport, fate, biouptake, and organism response. To compare and interpret experimental data, it is essential that sufficient context be provided for describing the physical and chemical characteristics of the setting in which a nanomaterial may be present....
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The presence of microplastics in the environment is currently receiving a lot of attention. Rubber particles from tire wear have been estimated in several mass emission inventories to be a major contributor to the total microplastic release. This work used dynamic probabilistic material flow analysis to quantify the flows of rubber particles from t...
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The calculation of a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) is a commonly accepted approach to derive the predicted no‐effect concentration (PNEC) of a substance in the context of environmental risk assessment. The SSD approach usually is data demanding and incorporates a large number of ecotoxicological values from different experimental studies....
Article
Hazard assessments for ENMs are made more difficult by the multitude of different nano-forms that have to be tested if a case-by-case approach is applied. Predictive hazard assessments are currently being developed to streamline the environmental risk assessment of ENMs. The present study compiled an ecotoxicological dataset for nano-TiO2 and aimed...
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Plastic has been identified as an emerging contaminant in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Uncertainties remain concerning the amounts present in the environment and the main responsible sources. In this study, the emissions of macro- and microplastics have been mapped for seven polymers in Switzerland. The modeling is based on a complete analys...
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Background The increasing development and use of nanobiomaterials raises questions about their potential adverse effects on the environment after excretion and release. Published ecotoxicological data was searched for five polymeric nanobiomaterials [chitosan, polylactic acid (PLA), polyacrylonitrile (PAN), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and poly(lac...
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Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are intentionally designed in different nano-forms of the same parent material in order to meet application requirements. Different grouping and read-across concepts are proposed to streamline risk assessments by pooling nano-forms in one category. Environmental grouping concepts still are in their infancy and mainly...
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Quantitative environmental risk assessment of nanocellulose, using a dynamic and probabilistic modelling approach. Results show low risk, contributing towards the safe development of this material.
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Nanomaterial risk governance requires models to estimate the material flow, fate and transport as well as uptake/bioavailability, hazard and risk in the environment. This study assesses the fit of such available models to different stages during the innovation of nano-enabled products. Through stakeholder consultations, criteria were identified for...
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Microplastics have been detected in freshwaters all over the world in almost all samples and ecotoxicological studies have shown adverse effects of microplastics on organisms. However, no risk assessment of microplastics has been performed specifically in freshwater so far. The aim of the present study was therefore to review all exposure and ecoto...
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Many new nanoapplications containing engineered nanomaterials (ENM) are introduced to the market every year. Because they have the potential to release ENM to the environment during their life cycle, it is desirable to investigate the amounts of ENM that could be emitted to the environment before they occur. In this research, we created ENM mass co...
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The omnipresence of plastics in our lives and their ever increasing application range continuously raise the re-quirements for the monitoring of environmental and health impacts related to both plastics and their additives. In this work we present a static probabilistic material flow analysis of seven polymers through the European and Swiss anthrop...
Article
Most existing models for assessing the releases of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) into the environment are based on the assumption that ENMs remain in their pristine forms during their whole life cycle. It is known, however, that this is not always the case as ENMs are often embedded into solid matrices during manufacturing and can undergo physica...
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All nanomaterial exposure estimates require fundamentally knowledge about the production volumes of the nanomaterials. Published values of production volume can vary by orders of magnitude, mainly caused by ambiguities in...
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Static environmental exposure assessment models based on material flow analysis (MFA) have previously been used to estimate flows of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) to the environment. However, such models do not account for changes in the system behavior over time. Dynamic MFA used in this study includes the time-dependent development of the model...
Article
A lot of research studies have endeavored to investigate the ecotoxicological hazards of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). However, little is known regarding the actual environmental risks of ENMs, combining both hazard and exposure data. The aim of this study is to quantify the environmental risks for nano-Al2 O3 , nano-SiO2 , nano iron oxides, nan...
Article
The use of pristine, as-produced engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) to examine environmental behavior or toxicity is convenient, but it is the aged or released ENMs that are much more likely to be present in the environment and these are the materials to which organisms will ultimately be exposed. When determining which aging processes are most releva...
Article
For over a decade, life cycle assessment (LCA) has been recognized as a valuable tool for systematically evaluating the potential environmental impacts of manufactured nanomaterial (MNMs) during their complete life cycles. Evidence for its emerging role in the field can be seen in the increasing number of LCA studies that have been published in rec...
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An Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) for nanomaterials (NMs) is outlined in this paper. Contrary to other recent papers on the subject, the main data requirements, models and advancement within each of the four risk assessment domains are described, i.e., in the: (i) materials, (ii) release, fate and exposure, (iii) hazard and (iv) risk character...
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Improving the risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) requires that uncertainties in their potential releases during their complete life cycle are quantified and, as far as possible, reduced. To date, most research has focused on releases of ENM during their use and from wastewater treatment plants. Few studies have considered releases d...
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Exposure modeling is an important tool in the risk assessment process because it can provide information on predicted environmental concentrations (PEC values) even in the absence of analytical data. A suite of different models has been used in the last years to predict environmental flows and concentrations of engineered nanomaterials (ENM). These...
Article
Microplastic fibers make up a large proportion of microplastics found in the environment, especially in urban areas. There is good reason to consider synthetic textiles a major source of microplastic fibers and it will not diminish since the use of synthetic fabrics, especially polyester, continues to increase. In this study we provide quantitative...
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Numerous nanometrology techniques have been developed in recent years to determine the size, concentration and a number of other characteristics of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) in environmental matrices. Among the many available techniques, Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA) can measure individual particles to create a size distribution and mea...
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Assessing the risks of manufactured nanomaterials (MNM) has been almost exclusively focused on the pristine, as-produced materials with far fewer studies delving into more complex, real world scenarios. However, when considering a life-cycle perspective, it is clear that MNM released from commercial products during manufacturing, use and disposal a...