Toxicological Assessment of Cellulose Nanomaterials: Oral Exposure
Cellulose nanomaterials (CNMs) have emerged recently as an important group of sustainable bio-based nanomaterials (NMs) with potential applications in multiple sectors, including the food, food packaging, and biomedical fields. The widening of these applications leads to increased human oral exposure to these NMs and, potentially, to adverse health outcomes. Presently, the potential hazards regarding oral exposure to CNMs are insufficiently characterised. There is a need to understand and manage the potential adverse effects that might result from the ingestion of CNMs before products using CNMs reach commercialisation. This work reviews the potential applications of CNMs in the food and biomedical sectors along with the existing toxicological in vitro and in vivo studies, while also identifying current knowledge gaps. Relevant considerations when performing toxicological studies following oral exposure to CNMs are highlighted. An increasing number of studies have been published in the last years, overall showing that ingested CNMs are not toxic to the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), suggestive of the biocompatibility of the majority of the tested CNMs. However, in vitro and in vivo genotoxicity studies, as well as long-term carcinogenic or reproductive toxicity studies, are not yet available. These studies are needed to support a wider use of CNMs in applications that can lead to human oral ingestion, thereby promoting a safe and sustainable-by-design approach.