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New $2 Million Grant Awarded to the University of Kentucky for Research on Nanoparticles and Human Health

Release Date: 08/20/2008
Contact Information: Laura Niles, (404) 562-8353, niles.laura@epa.gov

(Atlanta, Ga. – August 20, 2008) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the award of a $2 million grant to the University of Kentucky (UK) to investigate how the sizes and shapes of nanoparticles affect their ability to enter the brain. This is the largest EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant ever awarded to the University of Kentucky as well as the largest single grant ever awarded by EPA STAR for nanotechnology research.

“Nanotechnology is an exciting new field with the potential to transform environmental protection,” said Russell L. Wright, Jr., Deputy Regional Administrator (Acting) for EPA Region 4 in Atlanta, Ga. “With nanomaterial use increasing every day across industries from healthcare to manufacturing, it is essential that we understand the implications of nanotechnology for human health and the environment.”

“I applaud Dr. Yokel and his research team for earning such a prestigious award,” said UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. “It is an honor that the EPA STAR program selected UK for the largest single grant it has ever awarded for nanotechnology research. This award is a perfect example of why it is so important that Kentucky has a world-class research university, as it shows that the leading faculty and researchers that we have been able to recruit and retain here at UK are among the best in the world.”

The research team, led by Dr. Robert Yokel, will study potential health impacts of nano-sized cerium oxide, a diesel fuel additive. Used presently in Europe, it is claimed to improve fuel efficiency, suppress soot from exhaust, and reduce the concentration of other ultra-fine particles in air that have known health effects. The research project will be funded for four years.

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating extremely small particles – ranging in size from 1 to 100 nanometers. The physical, chemical, electronic, and optical properties of these nanoparticles may be different from the larger form of the same material. As such, nanomaterials may have unique impacts on the environment and human health.

As nanotechnology progresses from research and development to commercialization and use, it is likely that manufactured nanomaterials will be released into the environment. EPA is charged with protecting human health and the environment, as well as ensuring that the uses of engineered nanotechnology products occur without unreasonable harm to human health or the environment. This research will provide relevant information needed for risk assessments that can inform decision-making related to nanotechnology products.

To learn more about EPA’s nanotechnology program: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/nano
For more information on this grant: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.abstractDetail/abstract/8800/report/0