Sunday, November 05, 2006

Nanotech Expert Without More EHS Research Were Working in the Dark

Safety concerns about implimentation of new products based upon nanotechnology ...

"With more than 300 allegedly nanotechnology-based consumer products already on the market, nanotechnology in the workplace presents an “immediate challenge” to occupational safety and health, according to one of the leading experts on the subject.

Andrew Maynard, Ph.D., chief science advisor for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, is urging the U.S. government to invest at least $100 million over the next 2 years in "targeted risk research in order to begin to fill in our occupational safety knowledge gaps and to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology workplaces."

Currently, just $11 million of the U.S. government's $1 billion in annual nanotechnology research spending goes toward EHS research, according to Maynard.

In his article "Nanotechnology: The Next Big Thing, or Much Ado About Nothing?" - which will appear in the January 2007 edition of the Annals of Occupational Hygiene - Maynard notes that nanotechnology is being heralded as "the next industrial revolution." But along with its promises of breakthroughs ranging from improved cancer treatments to longer-lasting batteries, nanotechnology also brings "increasing concerns" that it will present "new risks to human health and the environment, which we are not well-equipped to deal with," Maynard says.

"We have a long history of somebody coming up with a bright idea and implementing it and only realizing after the fact that there's a downside to it," Maynard told Occupationalhazards.com.

That's why Maynard, in his article, asserts that failing to conduct enough nanotechnology EHS research "will ultimately lead to people's health being endangered and emerging nanotechnologies floundering."

The good news, Maynard told Occupationalhazards.com, is that the existing knowledge base in occupational hygiene provides "a lot of information on how to work pragmatically with these kinds of materials." However, "very few people have taken that vast resource of information and applied it to nanomaterials."

"So I think there are ways of using existing [occupational hygiene] information that will get us 60 or 70 percent of the way" toward working safely with nanomaterials, Maynard said. "That then leaves a gap that has to be filled with this strategic, targeted research. Without the research, we won't have a good, scientific basis to truly ensure safe working places."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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