Techniques and Protocols for Dispersing Nanoparticle Powders in Aqueous Media—is there a Rationale for Harmonization?

Selecting appropriate ways of bringing engineered nanoparticles (ENP) into aqueous dispersion is a main obstacle for testing, and thus for understanding and evaluating, their potential adverse effects to the environment and human health. Using different methods to prepare (stock) dispersions of the same ENP may be a source of variation in the toxicity measured. Harmonization and standardization of dispersion methods applied in mammalian and ecotoxicity testing are needed to ensure a comparable data quality and to minimize test artifacts produced by modifications of ENP during the dispersion preparation process. Such harmonization and standardization will also enhance comparability among tests, labs, and studies on different types of ENP. The scope of this review was to critically discuss the essential parameters in dispersion protocols for ENP. The parameters are identified from individual scientific studies and from consensus reached in larger scale research projects and international organizations. A step-wise approach is proposed to develop tailored dispersion protocols for ecotoxicological and mammalian toxicological testing of ENP. The recommendations of this analysis may serve as a guide to researchers, companies, and regulators when selecting, developing, and evaluating the appropriateness of dispersion methods applied in mammalian and ecotoxicity testing. However, additional experimentation is needed to further document the protocol parameters and investigate to what extent different stock dispersion methods affect ecotoxicological and mammalian toxicological responses of ENP.