Aquatic ecotoxicology formed a major part of the content within the SA Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Summer School which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology. The various themes for the 2016 Nanoschool were an introduction to the Health Safety and Environmental –Nano Risk Platform, hazard identification, exposure assessment, risk assessment and challenges faced by the platform.
Minister Naledi Pandor attended the opening of the Nanoschool and gave an inspirational keynote address to all the international and student attendees. The North-West University Rector (Potchefstroom Campus) Prof Fika van Rensburg was very appreciative of the time taken and suggested that the honourable Minister should be anointed Nanoledi Pandor. This undoubtedly set the tone for what would be a very informative and open discussion on Nano-Risk within South Africa with input from experts from various disciplines.
Several of the student attendees of the 2016 Nanoschool were chemists who were involved in the production of nanomaterials within universities, the private sector and government funded institutions – most of whom were unaware of the occupational risks involved in the production and consequential release of nanomaterials into the environment. The attendees were taken on a tour of the Nano-Manufacturing Pilot Plant and Nanomedicine encapsulation facilities as well as shown several laboratory techniques used to measure risk; these included particle air quality measurements, xCELLigence (real-time cell analysis), acute toxicity testing, species sensitivity distributions and the important relationship between accurate nanomaterial characterization and toxicity.
A panel discussion was held where students and presenters, as well as public entities, could raise topics of interest and concern – among these were: how to limit occupational exposure and questions surrounding whether the current standard laboratory safety measures are sufficient; how to couple nanomaterial development with regulatory policies as to minimize environmental risk and exposure and how to responsibly inform the public on possible risk. The DST, CSIR, Ground Truth, NIOH, NNBF, experts from international universities (Plymouth University, UK and University Duisburg-Essen, Germany) and government departments formed the core of the panel.
The Nanoschool provided collaborations within institutions of chemists and aquatic toxicologists that were unaware of the work they were doing right next door to one another, it brought together old colleagues that only meet at yearly conferences and established friendships between researchers that were unaware of the massive network they fell into. I guess one could say it was a nano success.