The Toxicology and Biochemistry Section of the NIOH under the leadership of the NIOH has is currently setting up a Nano-toxicology Unit that will contribute to NIOH efforts to support the responsible development of the nanotechnology in South Africa. Nano-toxicology is a sub-specialty of particle toxicology and is dedicated to the study of the toxicity of nanomaterials. This unit will focus on the risk assessment of engineered nano-particles in general and their toxicity assessment in particular.
Nanotechnology refers to the branch of science and engineering devoted to designing, producing, and using structures, devices, and systems by manipulating atoms and molecules at nano-scale. A major output of this activity is the development of new materials in the nanometer scale, including nanoparticles, i.e. particulate materials with at least one dimension of less than 100 nanometers (100 millionth of a millimeter) or less. One nanometer is 10-9 m or 10-3 μm, by comparison, by comparison, a human hair is approximately 70,000 nm in diameter, a red blood cell is approximately 5,000 nm wide and simple organic molecules have sizes ranging from 0.5 to 5 nm.