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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 3, 2005

UI Researchers Receive $335,000 EPA Grant

Three University of Iowa researchers recently received a three-year, $335,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the potential implications of manufactured nanomaterials on human health and the environment.

Vicki H. Grassian, professor of chemistry in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Patrick O'Shaughnessy, associate professor, and Peter Thorne, professor of occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health, are collaborating on the project, which is part of a $4 million EPA effort involving a variety of investigations and 12 universities. Nanoscience and nanotechnology offer new opportunities for making superior materials for use in industrial and health applications. Nanoscale materials currently are used in a range of products, such as sunscreens, composites and medical devices, and serve as chemical catalysts.

Grassian, who also holds an appointment in the UI College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, says that their work will focus on the health impacts of nanoparticulate aerosols, i.e. nanoparticles that become suspended in the air. The nanoparticulates will be studied in terms of their size, shape, bulk and surface properties. The potentially hazardous health effects of nanoparticles will be compared to ultrafine particles resulting from combustion processes.

Grassian says that there is limited scientific information about the human health and environmental implications of manufactured nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology is the atom-by-atom creation of materials and structures with fundamentally new functions and characteristics that give them unique properties. Potentially harmful effects of nanotechnology might arise as a result of the nature of the nanomaterials themselves as well as products made from them. As new nanomaterials are manufactured, the potential increases for human and environmental exposure.

Grassian's previous work has included designing and implementing new laboratory experiments to better understand the link between the chemistry of mineral dust, or soil particles, in the atmosphere and other global processes, including climate and biogeochemical cycles as well as human health. Large amounts of mineral dust, arising from dust storms in desert regions, combined with the long-range global transport of these particles can influence air quality, visibility, terrestrial and ocean life worldwide.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,