Guidance for the Prognostic Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials in Aquatic Ecosystems

A.A. Koelmans*, N.J. Diepens, I. Velzeboer, E. Besseling, J.T.K. Quik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Our understanding of the environmental fate and effects of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) is in a state of fast transition. Recent scientific developments open new and powerful perspectives to define a framework for the prognostic risk assessment of ENMs in aquatic ecosystems. This requires abandoning the reductionist's approach of mechanistic analysis on particle or cellular scales and calls for engineering solutions that deal with uncertainties by applying assessment factors and probabilistic approaches. An ecological risk assessment (ERA) framework for ENMs is similar to that for other classes of substances, in that it requires clear protection goals based on ecosystem services, evidence-based concepts that link exposure to effects, and a transparent tiered effect assessment. Here, we discuss approaches to assess exposure and effects of ENMs. This includes recent developments in ENP fate modeling that greatly expanded the potential of prognostic exposure assessments. For the effect assessment, we advise a cost-effective screening based on principles of read-across as a conservative first tier. The feasibility of using species sensitivity distributions as a higher tier option is discussed. Controlled model ecosystem field experiments are proposed as a highest experimental tier, and are required for the calibration of the lower tiers. An outlook to unify information from various tiers by experimental work, fate modeling, and effect modeling as cost-effective prognostic tools for the ERA of ENMs is provided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-149
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • engineered nanomaterials
  • tio2 nanoparticles
  • environmental fate
  • carbon nanotubes
  • manufactured nanoparticles
  • hediste-diversicolor
  • silver nanoparticles
  • scrobicularia-plana
  • cuo nanoparticles
  • fresh-water


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