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Health and Environment

Towards safe and sustainable graphene and related materials

While we are on the path to market applications, the Graphene Flagship must evaluate the effects of graphene and related materials on human health and the environment. To this end, the Health and Environment Work Package studies the potential risks that could arise from these new materials.

This year’s progress 

Our work package works to ensure the production of safe and sustainable graphene and related materials. In the past year, we evaluated the materials’ interactions with many different natural barriers, such as the skin, lungs and kidneys, among others. We closely follow the safety rules established by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the international standard in the testing of chemical substances. Moreover, we have worked with the OECD to develop new regulations and procedures for layered materials. These cover aspects like skin irritation, and more complex issues like neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity. It is crucial to consider safety before releasing commercial products.

We also focus on the sustainable production of graphene and related materials. When it comes to graphene manufacturing, we want to avoid hazardous materials and chemicals that could pose a threat to the environment. Graphene Flagship partner University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, created the spin-off Biograph Solutions to produce graphene following green chemistry methods, suitable for uses with biological tissues. Their patented technology yields clean materials, free of contaminants like metals, acids and organic compounds.

The commercial uses of graphene and related materials keep growing. Therefore, this field needs a comprehensive evaluation of their potential impact on human health and the environment. Over the past few years, the Graphene Flagship has investigated many new layered materials, all different from each other. We must also uncover any relationships between chemical structure and biological activity. Then, we will understand if any physical and chemical properties have links to potentially harmful effects.

Upcoming Challenges

Currently, the biggest challenge for the Health and Environment Work Package is the application of OECD guidelines for graphene and related materials. Every new material requires new adaptations and modifications, and our work package strives to further develop regulations to ensure the appropriate registration of layered materials. Eventually, these rules will guarantee further commercialisation of graphene-enabled products and industrial production on a large scale.

Work Package Leadership

Leader: Maurizio Prato, University of Trieste, Italy
Deputy: Alberto Bianco, CNRS, France

Division Leadership

Leader: Kostas Kostarelos, The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Deputy: Maurizio Prato, University of Trieste, Italy

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