The Minimum Information for Nanomaterial Characterization (MINChar) Initiative

A community initiative to improve the utility of nanotoxicology studies through effective nanomaterial characterization

Poor or inadequate material characterization has been a major barrier to interpreting and comparing studies addressing the human or ecological toxicity of engineered nanomaterials.

For some time, the nanonoxicology research community have been looking to improve the level of material physical and chemical characterization in studies, but the technical and cultural barriers to progress have been high.

This initiative grows out of discussions between researchers in industry, academia and government over the past few years, and aims to address two issues:

  • The development of minimal material characterization recommendations for nano-toxicology studies; and
  • The development of a plan of action for encouraging adoption of these recommendations by researchers, research managers and research publishers.

In 2004, a workshop sponsored by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the University of Florida stressed the need for appropriate and accurate characterization of nanomaterials in toxicology studies.

At a workshop held at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2007, a similar message from a series of speakers resonated with a number of participants from government, academia, and industry, who were thinking along the same lines.  This small group took advantage of the coincidence of being in the same place and started planning how to work together and how to engage other influential nanotechnologists on how to improve characterization quality.

The result was a small workshop held in Washington DC at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars between Oct 28 – 29 2008, which brought together interested experts from a diverse range of backgrounds to address the central issue of raising the quality of research surrounding the potential toxicity of nanomaterials.

One of the results of the workshop was this website, which is focused on providing information about minimal characterization requirements for nanomaterial toxicity testing, and soliciting comment on and support for the recommendations of the DC workshop participants.

This initiative is very much a stepping stone towards improving the quality and utility of nanotoxicology studies.  The main “product” is a set of recommended minimum physical and chemical characterization parameters for nanotoxicology studies, which are aimed at encouraging closer attention to materials characterization in these studies, and are designed to complement more robust guidelines and recommendations from organizations such as ISO and OECD.

A key aim here is to develop a community from the bottom up that is interested in supporting effective nanomaterial characterization for toxicology studies.  If you (or your organization) are a generator, assessor or user of nanotoxicology data, please feel free to associate yourself with the MINChar initiative.

Additional nformation on the Initiative coordinators

Additional resources on nanomaterial characterization