Bernd Nowack


Bernd Nowack, Group leader Environmental Risk Assessment and Management Group, Empa- Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St. Gallen, Switzerland and adjunct professor, ETH Zürich, Department of Environmental Systems Science

Research interests

The current research of Bernd Nowack deals with the chances and risks of engineered nanomaterials and microplastics, comprising a wide spectrum of different approaches: development and application of methods for material flow modeling, exposure modeling, environmental risk assessment and life cycle assessment; experimental studies about release of nanomaterials from products and investigations about their behavior and effects in the environment. Bernd Nowack has published more than 140 peer-reviewed publications and has an h-factor of 49. He is founding co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal NanoImpact and is Associate Editor of Environmental Pollution. He is listed in “The World’s most influential scientific minds 2015” from Thomson Reuters in the category “Environmental Sciences/Ecology”.

Keynote – Environmental risk assessment of nanomaterials

The environmental risks of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) can be quantified by comparing modelled PEC values (predicted environmental concentrations) with PNEC values (predicted no effect concentrations), obtained from an analysis of the ecotoxicological literature. As a starting point for the environmental exposure assessment, exploring sources and pathways of release helps to identify relevant applications and situations where the environment may face exposure to ENM. By tracking the life cycle of products, it is possible to explore whether and in which situations a release of ENM from applications may occur. Using material flow modeling as a basis, we can quantitatively identify the determining steps in the life cycle of nano-products that result in release to the environment. Using probabilistic species sensitivity distributions, we are able to obtain PNEC values ENM that can then be compared to probability distributions of PEC values. Environmental risks were quantified so far for the following nanoparticles in water and soils: TiO2, ZnO, Ag, CNT, fullerenes, Au, SiO2 and Fe-oxides. This presentation gives an overview of the problems we are facing when performing this risk assessment and critically discusses the results for different materials and environmental compartments.