Green Toxicology – What we did, what we do, and what we should do!

Harald. F. Krug, NanoCASE GmbH, CH-9032 Engelburg, Switzerland    

Chemistry has influenced our lives during the last century as Nanotechnology will do during the 21st century. We had in the past a story-book full of severe accidents and tragedies triggered by malpractice and misbehavior with chemicals [1]. At the end of the 20th century Nicholas Anastas published a book on the principles of Green Chemistry [2], new rules which should help to prevent such accidents or misuse of chemicals. Four of the 12 principles he established for Green Chemistry deal with toxicology. Most chemical companies, especially the bigger ones, respect these rules of Green Chemistry, but the technological development induces many new and small companies with new products and many of these have no idea about toxicological aspects of their own products. As can be seen with nanotechnology a hype in such a business induces also concerns about the safety of the products containing more and more nanomaterials. The situation around nanomaterials is somehow disappointing, as we started early with the accompanying safety research on nanomaterials but we didn’t respect the principles of good laboratory practice and Green Chemistry/Green Toxicology. Thus, we have an overwhelming amount of studies demonstrating biological effects in vivo or in vitro but most of these studies are not suitable for risk assessment or regulatory purposes [3,4]. The consequence from this fact for a sustainable development in chemistry and material science must be the introduction of the idea of Green Toxicology into the risk research not only of nanomaterials. Respecting the 7 principles of Green Toxicology [5] will help to achieve the goal of safer materials and chemicals.


Harald F. Krug is actually retired (10/2017) from his position as Manager for the International Research Cooperations in the General Management of Empa – Swiss Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology in Switzerland (St. Gallen). Until May 2014 he was a member of the board of directors of Empa and head of the research focus area „Health&Performance“. With the founding of his own company in February 2014 he follows the rules of the ETH-Area and left the board of directors. His company NanoCASE GmbH focusses on education and consulting of manufacturing companies on the safe production and use of nanomaterials or nanomaterial-containing products. He was further appointed as Professor at the University of Berne since August 2008 and is emeritus now. His actual work with his company is focused on applications and implications of new materials, especially nanomaterials. Special emphasis lays on the reliability of published data and the generation of usable knowledge in international consortia. In projects funded by the OECD, the German and the Swiss government he established several databases presenting reliable data on nanosafety in the web. His work was awarded in 2006 with the cwi-Award of the German Ceramic Society, in 2007 with the Research Award for „Alternatives for Animal Testing“ of the State Parliament of Baden-Württemberg and in 2015 and 2017 with best contribution awards at the WING and EuroNanoForum conferences.

[1] European Environment Agency (2001) P. Harremoes et al. (eds.), 22, Copenhagen
[2] P.T. Anastas, J.C. Warner (1998) Green Chemistry. Oxford University Press, New York.
[3] H.F. Krug (2014) Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53, 12304-12319
[4] H.F. Krug, K. Nau (2017) ChemBioEng Reviews 4, 331-338
[5] A. Maertens et al. (2014) ALTEX. 31:243-249 and S.E. Crawford et al. (2017) Environ. Sci. Eur. 29, 16