December 1, 2008
Navigating the minefield of airborne nanoparticle exposure
Nanotechnology—like other emerging technologies—presents a dilemma: If you’re making new substances with uncertain health risks, how low is low enough when it comes to managing exposure?
The issue is raised in the current edition of Nature Nanotechnology by Vladimir Murashov of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and former NIOSH-director John Howard. But the question has been bubbling along for some time.
And it’s an important one. Uncertainty over safe workplace practices is bad news for nanotech businesses trying to do the right thing—especially small start-ups that don’t have the resources to work out their own bespoke solutions. It’s not much better for regulators—as the gap between emerging technologies and solid information on their safe use widens, how do you craft new approaches to protecting people’s health and the environment? Read the rest of this entry »
September 3, 2008
Amidst the cacophony of debate swirling around the true meaning of nanotechnology, I head a voice or reason last week. The voice was that of Dr. Bernd Sachweh of BASF, speaking at the European Aerosol Conference in Thessoloniki.
I paraphrase, but the essence of Bernd’s point was this:
‘Nano’ is not a thing or a product. It has no intrinsic value. Rather, ‘nano’ adds value; it changes the properties and the worth of something that already exists.
I must confess, I rather like the idea of ‘nano’ as adding value, rather than being an entity in and of itself. It’s hard to come up with of an example where engineering something at the nanoscale leads to behaviour or functionality that is independent of the starting material. Rather, the great potential of nanotechnology would seem to be in taking raw materials and engineering them in ways that lead to the emergence of novel scale-related properties, which can then be used in new and innovative ways.
But what I really like about the concept of added-value is that it provides insight into how nanotechnology might be approached from an oversight perspective. Read the rest of this entry »