The unique properties of nanomaterials such as small size, improved solubility, surface adaptability, and large surface-to-volume ratio have resulted in the development of one of the most dynamic science and engineering domains known to date by providing an effective route to alter and enhance material properties. The flexible field of nanotechnology opens up many research and application avenues for materials scientists, biologists, and engineers alike. However, with the dynamic nature of nanomaterials comes the risk of adverse consequences from the interaction between these materials and living organisms. While the remarkable properties of these nano-enabled products have the potential to revolutionize several industries and many aspects of human life, human exposure to nanomaterials is inevitable through both intentional (active) intake, such as through medical intervention or food ingestion, and unintentional (inactive) contacts, such as inhalation of particles or dermal exposure through disposal during occupational processes. The overall safety of nanomaterial exposures rising from the widespread use of nano-enabled products remains unknown. Concerns about the toxicity of nanomaterials in the environment include assumed persistence; high bioavailability of certain nanomaterials; bioaccumulation in flora, fauna, and humans; and the ability of a myriad of nanomaterials to chemically interact with common compounds already present in the environment that could, in theory, change the toxicity or immunogenicity of either interacting component. Thus, research endeavors have been focused to investigate the potential perils associated with the use of nanomaterials and nano-enabled products (viz., manufactured products that contain raw engineered nanomaterials (ENM)). The aim of this chapter is to review the exposure scenarios and potential mechanisms of action after exposure to unbound ENMs as well as ENMs incorporated into products in occupation-, consumer-, and environment-focused areas. This chapter also highlights the key concepts of nanotechnology to the layman’s community to introduce various state-of-the-art examples of current nanotechnology that were either created for use in biological systems or that can be utilized for biomedical and environmental applications to provide recent updates on nanotoxicology to the living world, and to propose actions to tackle these challenges.
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