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Posted: Jun 25, 2013
Nanotechnology safety in Europe 2015-2025 - a research strategy for the European Commission
(Nanowerk News) The Finnish Insitute of Occupational Health, together with the members of the European Nanosafety Cluster, that is, over a hundred European nanosafety research experts, have produced a research strategy for the European Commission. The strategy outlines the focal points of nanomaterial safety research for the Commission’s 8th framework programme (Horizon 2020).
Nanotechnology has been identified as one of the key enabling technologies
(KET) in Horizon 2020 thus underlining the significance of this field for
Europe’s competitiveness and its ability to provide the innovative goods and
services essential for meeting global challenges. In particular, nanotechnology
offers substantial possibilities for improving the competitive position of the EU
and for responding to key societal challenges. Ensuring the safe and sustainable
development and application of the nanotechnologies is thus a key objective.
The aim of this document (Strategic Research Agenda; SRA) is to introduce a strategic vision for future
research on the safe use and safe applications of engineered nanomaterials
(ENM). The time horizon for this document is 2015-2025. The SRA has been
developed by members of the European NanoSafety Cluster, a forum for ongoing
FP6 and FP7 projects covering all aspects of nanosafety. The implementation
of the SRA is expected to provide a major step forward in the development
of safe and sustainable nanomaterials.
The goals of this document are to describe the current level of knowledge
of the safety of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, to identify knowledge
gaps, and to set out concrete goals for the research on safety of ENM within
the foreseeable future. In addition, an overview of the nanosafety landscape
is provided. Nanosafety is seen as an integral part of the development of any
novel nanotechnology or product; a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder
approach is needed to promote a culture of nanosafety in Europe and beyond.
Key challenges today are that available tools for the assessment of the
safety of ENM are often inappropriate, or so laborious that adequate safety
assessment remains highly problematic. Current resources or test methods are
not likely to enable safety assessment of the numerous novel nanomaterials that
are emerging at an ever increasing pace. This means that new safety assessment
paradigms need to be developed during coming years to solve this problem.
At the same time it is important to support regulators and the nanotechnology
industry so that prosperity is maintained and current products are made safe for citizens in Europe and elsewhere. This situation calls for rapid identification of research priorities and of a roadmap for nanosafety; we cannot afford to wait.
Several cross-cutting issues that need to be addressed in order to promote growth of the nanotechnology industry are identified in this document. These
cross-cutting issues include: 1) the regulatory framework for ENM and nanotechnologies,
coupled to the important issue of standardization to promote
good practice and to facilitate communication; 2) the innovation/value chain
for environmental health and safety and innovation and means to ‘unblock’ the
value chain; 3) the development of infrastructures for nanosafety to promote research,
education, and innovation; and 4) international collaboration and global
dialogue, with a view towards a global research area in nanosafety, along with 5)
communication and dissemination of research to key stakeholders beyond the
research community, including industry, regulatory bodies, and others.
In addition, the SRA describes the current status and the research needs
and priorities for the coming 10 years in four main thematic areas: 1) nanomaterial
identification and classification; 2) nanomaterial exposure and transformation;
3) hazard mechanisms related to effects on human health and the environment;
and 4) tools for the predictive risk assessment and management including
databases and ontologies.
The SRA concludes with a set of research priorities
that are required in order to reach the goals of the roadmap. Ultimately, the successful
and timely implementation of this roadmap – which is subject to further
refinements as new research priorities emerge - will lead to the development
of a nanoEHS (Environment, Health and Safety) tool box for exposure assessment,
for hazard prediction, and for risk assessment and prediction as well as
management that will allow the sustainable implementation of nanotechnologies.
As an “enabling technology”, nanotechnology is applied early on and is a
key element in the innovation/value chain. There is tremendous potential for
nanotechnology to provide answers to societal solutions and it is therefore of
critical importance to incorporate nanosafety into the development of novel
nanotechnologies and products – safety before design.