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Integrated approach for exposure and health effects monitoring of engineered nanomaterials in workplaces and urban areas

Reference: LIFE17 ENV/GR/000285 | Acronym: LIFE NanoEXPLORE



Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are increasingly used worldwide. The properties of ENMs differ significantly from those of bulk chemicals of the same composition: they have a much larger specific surface area and surface activity or much larger deposition rate in respiratory systems. This may lead to unanticipated effects in human health and ecosystems, causing adverse effects on the metabolism of living beings.

Little is known about the levels, nature and possible adverse effects after exposure to engineered nanomaterials in indoor workplaces and urban areas. No specific biomarkers have been identified or validated to detect early effects on the pulmonary and cardio-vascular systems. There is a lack of precise recommended exposure measurement strategies and standardised testing methods. The difficulty of discriminating between the background levels of natural nanoparticles (background aerosols) and manufactured nano-aerosols (ENMs) constitutes a major obstacle in assessing ENM-specific exposures.

There is, thus, an urgent need to provide stakeholders, including regulatory bodies and companies, with an integrated approach to generate robust data on the exposure levels and related health effects, in order to support risk assessment of these chemicals of concern.


The LIFE NanoEXPLORE project will develop technology and online tools to monitor exposure to engineered nanomaterials in indoor workplaces and urban areas. Bio-monitoring will allow it to identify possible health effects from exposure to ENMs, including the effects of inhalation. The project will validate and demonstrate the feasibility of its approach to nanomaterial risk assessment by implementing a pilot study in four European countries: Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The long-term goal is a harmonised health surveillance system and new EU policies on the safer use of ENMs. If achieved these would lead to a 10% reduction in potential adverse effects derived from exposure to engineered nanomaterials.

The theme of the project is aligned with the priorities published by the EU NanoSafety Cluster in March, 2017, as well as with the information published in the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON), launched by EU authorities, where it is stated that ENMs are covered by the same rigorous regulatory framework that ensures the safe use of all chemicals. Within REACH Regulation, the EU defines an exposure level below which no adverse effects are expected (DNEL). Under the EU Occupational Health and Safety Framework Directive indicative occupational exposure levels have to be applied. Moreover, when substances have hazardous properties, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) must be informed and the substances labelled and packaged so they can be used safely.

Expected results:

  • A panel of eight candidate biomarkers of exposure and effects of ENMs on the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems for health surveillance. A minimum improvement of 40% in comparison to the current baseline will be achieved;
  • The development of a functional wireless sensor network prototype of 20 unattended, low-cost, portable and battery powered devices;
  • The development of an on-line software application tool, based on a flexible and modular architecture, to process data on ENM concentrations and the collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data;
  • Reliable data on the concentration and effects of particles in the nanometer range (1-100 nm);
  • The definition of 10 refined recommended exposure levels (RELs) based on biomarker studies for metal- and metal oxide-based ENMs and low solubility carbon-based materials. A 60% improvement in the relevant knowledge is expected, as these RELs will also provide information for materials for which no data is currently available, including silver, grapheme, silicon dioxide and zinc oxide; and
  • The first set of comprehensive guidelines for the use of human bio-monitoring and exposure data for the implementation of REACH and for epidemiological purposes.


    Reference: LIFE17 ENV/GR/000285
    Acronym: LIFE NanoEXPLORE
    Start Date: 01/09/2018
    End Date: 28/02/2022
    Total Budget: 2,254,607 €
    EU Contribution: 1,350,645 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: ALCON CONSULTANT ENGINEERS Ltd.
    Legal Status: PCO
    Address: 18 Troias str., 11257, Athens, Ellas
    Contact Person: Athena Progiou
    Tel: 302108223083
    Website: (

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    • Chemicals


    • monitoring
    • chemical industry
    • public health


    • "Regulation 1907/2006 - Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) (18.12.2006) "


    Name Type
    National Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Greece Participant
    Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy Participant
    Institut universitaire romand de Santé au Travail, Switzerland Participant
    Yordas Limited, United Kingdom Participant
    RAMEM S.A, Spain Participant