Nanotech Expert Renews Call for Strategic Research

In a new article, nanotechnology expert Andrew Maynard asserts that "safe nanotechnologies will not become a reality" until their "uncertainties are addressed systematically" through strategic research.

Maynard, who is the chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, shares his views on nanotechnology and its potential safety and health risks in an article in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Cleanroom Technology magazine.

"Because nanotechnology is a way of doing or making things rather than a discrete technology, there will never be a one-solution-fits-all approach for nanotechnology and nanomaterials workplace safety," Maynard said. "That is why the federal government needs to invest a minimum of $100 million over 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."

Maynard Suggests Control Banding for Short Term

In the short term, because of those knowledge gaps, Maynard stresses the need to supplement good hygiene practices in the workplace with "nano-specific knowledge." Until more research data is available, Maynard proposes developing a control banding approach to nanotechnology workplace risk – a course of action that Maynard describes as being between inaction and banning all nanomaterials as hazardous.

According to Maynard, the control banding approach involve selecting appropriate control approaches based on a nanomaterial "impact index" centered on composition-based hazard, and perturbations associated with their nanostructure – such as particle size, shape, surface area and activity and bulk-size hazard – and on an "exposure index" representing the amount of material used and its "dustiness."

Maynard's article, which is abstracted from one of his presentations on nanotechnology occupational and environmental health and safety, can be viewed freely on the Cleanroom Technology Web site.

For more on Maynard's views, read "Nanotech Expert: 'Without More EHS Research, 'We're Working in the Dark.'" For additional nanotechnology articles concerning workplace safety and health, visit OccupationalHazards.com and enter the keyword "nanotechnology" in the site search field.

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