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New report stresses need for EHS risks assessment with nanotechnologies, backed by Intel Corp

19 July 2006 | By Mark Osborne | News > EHS

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NanotubeA growing body of researchers and scientists are highlighting the need for more funding to carry out much needed research into the potential environmental, health and safety issues surrounding nano-materials and technologies. An influential U.S based body has released a new report urging the U.S Government to significantly increase funding into some of the known and more importantly yet un-known risks surrounding nanotech.

The report by Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars highlights that, as little as $11 million of the more than $1.0 billion dollars the U.S. Government invests annually in nanotechnology research and development is devoted to EHS related issues. The lack of sufficient funds is made worse by the lack of a coherent risk assessment strategy and leadership, Maynard asserts within the report ‘Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk.'

"Without such an approach," Maynard stated in a press release, "significant knowledge gaps—which currently exist in all areas of nanotechnology risk assessment—will persist. At best, these gaps create uncertainties—and at worst, dangers—for workers, companies, consumers, investors, and insurers."

Maynard argues that the federal government needs an overarching strategy and comprehensive set of research priorities. Initially, these would be aimed at identifying and measuring nano-materials exposure and environmental release, evaluating nano-materials toxicity, controlling the release of and exposure to engineered nano-materials, and developing "best practices" for working safely with nano-materials, and eventually at building capacity in predictive toxicology.

The semiconductor industry is well versed in toxicology issues surrounding a wide range chemicals used in the manufacturing process and has struggled to identify risks due to the fast paced adoption of new materials to keep on Moore's Law. That said Intel Corp's Director of Technology Strategy, Paolo Gargini, added his company's support to Maynards findings with a separate press release issued by Intel on the study findings.

"The Wilson Center report is an important contribution to building much needed consensus around the need for focused research into the implications, as well as the applications, of nanotechnology," stated Gargini. "We believe there is a need for a more strategically-focused Federal effort devoted to studying the environmental, health, and safety dimensions of nanotechnology...Implementing the recommendations of the Wilson Center report would clearly build on the progress made under the leadership of the National Nanotechnology Initiative."

Not surprisingly Gargini noted that ‘Intel supports the recommendation for greater international cooperation in nanotech EHS research. Companies and countries will compete in the commercial dimension of nanotech; in the area of EHS, cooperation should be the keynote.'

The National Science Foundation (U.S.A.) predicts that the global marketplace for goods and services using nanotechnologies will grow to $1 trillion by 2015. The U.S. invests approximately $3 billion annually in nanotechnology research and development, which accounts for approximately one-third of total public and private sector nanotechnology investments worldwide.

Dr. Maynard's report, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk, is available online at
(http://www.nanotechproject.org/file_download/77)

 

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