"We can use the strong scientific foundation of air pollution particle testing to help understand the health impact of engineered nanoparticles and ensure safe manufacturing of nanoproducts," said Andre Nel, co-director of the Southern California Particle Center and UCLA Asthma and Immunological Disease Center.

According to Nel, there are many factors that can influence the effect of nanoparticles on the body. These include particle size, chemical composition, surface structure, solubility, shape and how the particles clump together.

Such particles can gain access to the body through the gastrointestinal tract, skin and lungs. In the case of air pollution particles, the result of exposure can be asthma or atherosclerotic heart disease.

Nel believes that toxicity screening strategies for nanomaterials should have three key elements - physical and chemical characterization, tissue cellular assays, and animal studies.

"An understanding of [nanomaterial] nanotoxicity could also lead to the harnessing of their properties such as using nanoparticles that initiate cell death for targeted chemotherapy approaches," he said.

The team has spun-out a company dubbed NanoSafety Laboratories (NSL), which will provide nanomaterial testing services to manufacturers.

The researchers wrote a review of the toxicity of nanomaterials in Science.