Trace elements and nanomaterials

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Quantify, identify and characterise trace elements and nanoparticles with their underlying risks 

We study the presence, transfer and potential health risks associated with chemical elements in food, feed, food supplements, materials in contact with food, etc. We pay particular attention to the chemical forms of these elements as this factor may influence their toxicity. Some elements can transfer to food from different environmental compartments - like the soil or the atmosphere - and be a threat to food safety. Therefore, our work comprises transfer studies, starting from the origin of the contamination chain up to humans.
Through our activities we support the regulation process and help guaranteeing food safety. For regulatory purposes, we also determine the physicochemical properties of engineered nanomaterials present in the food chain, medicines, cosmetics and the environment. In this perspective, we use a cutting-edge technology called ‘Transmission Electron Microscopy’ (TEM).

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We develop, assess, validate and implement various methodologies aiming at studying elements and their chemical forms, nanomaterials and virus-like particles. With these methodologies we determine the presence of these elements and their chemical forms in food and feed, as well as their migration from materials in contact with food.
We define the size and concentration of nanoparticles (e.g. silver, titanium dioxide, cerium dioxide, etc.) to determine whether manufactured materials should be considered as a nanomaterial or not, according to the European Commission’s definition (201⅙96/EU). Next to this, we also characterise virus-like particles and nanomaterials in detail. For the latter, our work covers the fields of risk-analysis, classification and toxicological analysis.

We also assess the exposure of the Belgian population to these components and help to identify the needs for exposure reduction. We perform risk analysis and integrate the aspect of bio-availability in exposure- and risk calculations. We collaborate with the health authorities in Belgium (FPS Public Health, FASFC) and Luxembourg, the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and other international authorities (ISO, OECD).

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We have long experience in the detection of various chemical substances.

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