Posted: September 3, 2010

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment publishes three new reports on nanotechnology

(Nanowerk News) The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has recently published three new reports on nanotechnology:
BfR Delphi Study on Nanotechnology (pdf) – An Expert Survey of the Use of Nanomaterials in Food and Consumer Products
A total of 100 experts were asked to identify and assess the potential risks of nanotechnology applications in the areas food, cosmetics, surface coatings and textiles. One-third of the participants came from industry (basic substance manufacturers, users from the food, cosmetics, textile and surface industry, associations), one-third from scientific institutions (basic and application-oriented research) and one-third from institutions which deal rather with the risks of nanotechnologies (public authorities, environmental organisations, consumer protection associations, trade unions, technology impact assessment institutions/networks, insurance companies).
In the study the experts forecast a moderate to major increase in the consumption of all nanomaterials used at the present time. Airborne nanomaterials were identified by the experts as the group with a particularly high hazard. Inhalational exposure to nanomaterials should be avoided. According to the majority of the experts, however, the risk potential of nanomaterials can only be identified and assessed in each individual case. To this end, nine general test criteria were elaborated for nanomaterials too, and nine additional nano-specific test criteria in the Delphi study.
Perception of Nanotechnology in Internet-based Discussions (pdf) – The risks and opportunities of nanotechnology and nanoproducts: results of an online discourse analysis
The primary purpose of this study is to analyse German-language online discussions of nanotechnology in an attempt to identify the perceived risks, opportunities, benefits and expectations associated with this field of research and development.
The study focuses on consumer-relevant applications in which considerable product experience has already been gained or in which this is likely to be the case in the near future. The study thus complements the BfR media study (Zimmer et al. 2008c) which found that consumer- relevant issues play only a minor role in mass media discourse. The study should not been seen as a representative survey of the public's perception of the risks of nanotechnology such as was undertaken recently by BfR in 2008 (Zimmer et al. 2008b). Unlike a representative survey, this study employs qualitative methods and focuses on those people who are already interested in the subject of nanotechnology.
Risk Perception of Nanotechnology – Analysis of Media Coverage (pdf)
This content analysis examines German media coverage of nanotechnology between January 2000 and December 2007 in a total of 1,696 articles published in the national quality newspapers Financial Times Deutschland, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung, taz, Die Welt, the news magazines Focus and Der Spiegel, and the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. The results show that on average 212 articles were published every year. After the peak of 248 articles in 2004, there was a decline in coverage to 170 articles in 2007. The main topics covered are "fundamental research" and the "application information and communication technologies". The central actors are "persons/ institutions in the field of science" and "economic actors". Overall, the media coverage of nanotechnology very much focussed on the potential benefits of the technology. Risks are only discussed to a minor degree. In a framing analysis five issue-specific frames were identified: "Research and Development", "Progress in information and communication technologies", "Economic use", "Medical benefit" and the "Risk-opportunity debate".
Source: BfR