Safety of manufactured nanomaterials

Plenary Session One: Setting the Scene: Abstracts



Barriers and Opportunities for Delivery of Sustainable Solutions – Lessons from the Field


Dr. Edward W. Manning
President, Tourisk Inc., Ottawa Canada

The achievement of sustainable development is a multifaceted challenge, and technology is one of the key building blocks. While nanotechnology has immense promise, and is very likely to provide significant elements in solutions to a very broad range of problems, it is likely to be a challenge to make the most of the opportunities provided and to get acceptance and adoption at many levels. All new approaches engender opposition, and some of this derives directly from a lack of information.
Communication from the laboratory to the user is a very fragmentary chain.  The policy makers, the specialists, the vendors and the implementers seldom speak the same language.  Real risk and perceived risks are seldom the same. Decision makers often cannot effectively define their problems relative to the range of potential solutions.  Our institutions themselves pose barriers.  My work in more than 50 countries shows a real need for new technologies at all scales, but also major gaps in knowledge about potential.  A key challenge is to close the information gap – and match the supply of technology to real demands, most imnportantly at the local and enterprise level.
For more than 30 years my work has focused on how to make a difference in the human footprint.  As a geographer, researcher and policy maker I  have had the opportunity to work with a very broad range of people who want to make a difference –from senior officials in the governments of Canada, China, Mexico, or Pakistan to village leaders in Cameroon, Sri Lanka or Russia to managers of relic chemical factories on the Yangtze or Riachuelo (Argentina), heads of international hotel chains and local ecolodges in remote locations.  What I have learned is that there are many problems in delivery of more sustainable solutions, and that nanotechnology may hold the answer for some.

In nearly all small communities where we have done local studies, water purification and sewage treatment systems are among the most critical issues – but current techniques often fall short.  Energy management, particularly in places like small islands where there are no accessible fossil fuels, drives an unrequited demand for improved solar and storage methods.   And how can we make a solar collector look like a thatched roof? Communities and their industries in many nations are waiting for the techniques which will decontaminate their effluents and detoxify sites – particularly in areas where a toxic mix defeats current filtration or bioremediation processes. I f you can’t see it, you can’t manage it – so better monitoring and measurement tools are critical, and we lack key tools.  Can you drop it from a plane and will it continue to provide information?

With regard to industry decision-makers the economics will always be the core focus, and cost effective technologies will be the most attractive.  This is also consistent with the increasing public commitment of many firms to environmental and social objectives. At the same time, growing concern with broad risk reduction may be a barrier to adoption or new processes or materials, as can the existing regulatory frameworks  may not be flexible enough to permit new products or processes without amendment. The overall challenge of future sustainability lies in reducing the human footprint in many ways - and nanotechnology can be a significant part of the solution.


Benefit and Safety Aspects of Nanotechnology- From the Viewpoint of Carbon Nanotubes


Morinobu Endo
Faculty of Engineering, Shinshu University, Japan

Nanotechnology as innovation for tomorrow’s world will change our way of life. The most distinguished nanotechnology related nonmaterial is “one-dimensional carbon nanotubes” which have attracted a particular interest from academy and industry, and thereby their related science and technology have developed rapidly, since their unique structure impart them to have novel physico-chemical properties: mechanical strength that is 100 times higher than steel, electrical conductivity that is as high as copper, and thermal conductivity that is as high as diamond. Those excellent properties of any reported value for any type of material make them promising in numerous applications (e.g., nanocomposite, energy storage and energy-conversion systems, sensors, filed-emission displays and lighting tubes, radiation sources, nano-devices, actuator and probes).

Unfortunately, the current large obstacle for blocking widespread applications of carbon nanotubes and their related materials in numerous application fields is considered to be the safety issue, due to their limited studies on the biocompatibility of carbon nanotubes. Thus, it is now urgently needed to clarify their potential toxic nature on human health and environment with detailed and systematic studies of toxicological evidences of carbon nanotubes, because what we worry the most is the misunderstanding among the general public, which might lead to the reluctance to use these tiny materials. In my talk, I shortly describe the basic features of carbon nanotubes as well as their current status and prospect from the viewpoint of business by relating their systematic biocompatibility studies. 


Are We Willing to Heed the Lessons of the Past?: Using the Precautionary Principle to Foster Safe Innovation-led Growth

 Steve Mullins, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australia

While this conference is focused on exploring the benefits of nanotechnology to foster safe innovation-led growth there are lessons to be learnt from past mistakes with new technologies that can only help establish a greater depth of understanding of what safe innovation-led growth means.
Despite growing evidence of potential health effects and invasive nature of nanoparticles, the nanotechnology industry is booming with the support and encouragement of many governments around the world. The global value of revenues related to nanotechnology is expected to increase from US$32 billion to US$3.1 trillion over the next decade (Lux Research 2008) and it is predicted to potentially extend into almost every industry sector (Victorian Nanotechnology Statement, 2008, p.6).
This paper draws from the asbestos legacy and in it I argue that it is imperative that a rigorous health and safety framework be applied to the use of nanomaterials. Without specific regulation and in the absence of conclusive research we will be exposing thousands of workers to an uncertain future.
So as to fully explore these issues, it is important that due consideration is given to the potential costs of nanotechnology so that the health and safety of workers can be prioritised and protected on the path towards innovative developments.
This paper will provide the following insights:

  • Provide an overview of a precautionary approach to innovation
  • Lessons learnt from mistakes of the past
  • Nanotechnology for environmental benefits but at what cost?
  • Provide an overview of gaps in knowledge and effectiveness of existing risk management and controls over the life cycle of nanomaterials
  • Can we protect health and safety and promote innovation? The next steps.

Converging Technologies, Diverging Regulation

Geert van Calster, Collegium Falconis, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven - Member of the Brussels Bar, Belgium

The idea of a one-stop port for regulatory oversight of nanotechnologies, was never seriously mooted in any of the usual suspects (led by the EC and the US).  This has led to an incremental approach to regulating the various applications of the technology, with the EC recently more eager to include nano-specific requirements in food and cosmetics legislation in particular.  These two examples illustrate the existing focus, in regulatory circles, on Health & Safety considerations, more specifically consumer health and safety (as opposed to occupational H&S).  While prioritising is certainly to be commended in the regulatory approach, one currently runs the risk of fragmenting the legal response to nanotechnologies.  Moreover, the environmental impact in particular risks becoming an afterthought. 
This presentation aims at combining the need for prioritisation, with the avoidance of fragmentation, and reviews in this respect the conceptual (un)suitability of the EU’s regulatory set-up in particular, to ensuring an integrated approach to nanotechnology regulation.


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