Nanotechnology risk management strategies and environmental regulations continue to rely on hazard and exposure assessment protocols developed for bulk materials, including larger size particles, while commercial application of nanomaterials (NMs) increases. In order to support and corroborate risk assessment of NMs for workers, consumers, and the environment it is crucial to establish the impact of biopersistence of NMs at realistic doses. In the future, such data will allow a more refined categorization of NMs. Despite many experiments on NM characterization and numerous in vitro and in vivo studies, several questions remain unanswered including the influence of biopersistence on the toxicity of NMs. It is unclear which criteria to apply to characterize a NM as biopersistent. Detection and quantification of NMs, especially determination of their state, i.e., dissolution, aggregation, and agglomeration within biological matrices and other environments are still challenging tasks; moreover mechanisms of nanoparticle (NP) translocation and persistence remain critical gaps. This review summarizes the current understanding of NM biokinetics focusing on determinants of biopersistence. Thorough particle characterization in different exposure scenarios and biological matrices requires use of suitable analytical methods and is a prerequisite to understand biopersistence and for the development of appropriate dosimetry. Analytical tools that potentially can facilitate elucidation of key NM characteristics, such as ion beam microscopy (IBM) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), are discussed in relation to their potential to advance the understanding of biopersistent NM kinetics. We conclude that a major requirement for future nanosafety research is the development and application of analytical tools to characterize NPs in different exposure scenarios and biological matrices.

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Published in NanoImpact, v. 6, p. 69-80.

© 2017 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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Funding Information

The authors acknowledge support from the EU FP7 project ‘NANoREG’ (Grant Agreement number 310584). The authors wish to thank this project for financial support of their research and for periodic teleconferences and meetings.

JD Brain: Supported by NIH Grant ES-OOOOO2 and by BASF.

RA Yokel: Supported by US-EPA STAR Grant RD-833772.

G Johanson: Supported by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) Grant 2010-0702.

A.M. Booth: Supported by Polish-Norwegian Research Programme (Project Contract No. Pol-Nor/237761/98/2014) and the Research Council of Norway project (Contract No. 239199/O70).

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