Posted: Oct 08, 2010

European and U.S. specialists discuss nanotechnology risks and opportunities

(Nanowerk News) On October 4th/5th, 2010, more than 200 European and US specialists were discussing the risks and opportunities offered by nanotechnology at a symposium in Lucerne organised by the Chemistry Section of the International Social Security Association (ISSA). The symposium was succedingly seeking to highlight the opportunities that nanotechnology offers for industry and medicine as well as the risks it poses. It also provided information on future legal regulations on a national and international level.
The presentations from this event are now available as PDF downloads from the event website.
The increasing significance of nanotechnology is presenting new challenges for occupational health and safety
The symposium, which was held at Lucerne's Culture and Convention Centre (KKL), was attended by entrepreneurs, people responsible for safety and health protection as well as representatives of institutions who are either involved in the field of nanotechnology or are affected by it. For two days, more than 20 experts of international standing from Europe and the US were discussing the various aspects of nanotechnology. At this symposium, the ISSA Chemistry Section drew attention both to the opportunities offered by the new technology, for example, for industry and medicine as well to its risks and hazards. Among other things, significant scientific findings were presented in Lucerne. In addition, discussions on future legal regulations that will play a central role where effective prevention were concerned.
Observing the effects
Nanotechnology is made up of the manufacture, investigation and application of the smallest structures, which reveal partially unforeseen properties and open up new technical applications. As with every new technology, however, it is also vital to carefully observe any possible effects on people and the environment. Due to their small size - they are less than one thousand times thinner than a human hair - nanoparticles can be absorbed by the human body via the lungs and partially via the gastrointestinal tract or the skin, too. Even in the companies concerned, little information is generally available on this new technology. There is therefore a major need for training and further training.
Pooling expertise
«Only knowledge can protect us from the false application of new technologies», claims Erwin Radek, President of the ISSA's Chemistry Section, with an eye toward the topics that were addressed. The symposium also aimed to pool existing expertise and to intensify the exchange of knowledge among experts.
«This is because the increasing significance of nanotechnology presents us with new challenges in occupational and health protection», according to Erwin Radek. Cross-border cooperation ensures that statutory and prophylactic parameters remain in step with developments in nanotechnology. With its international attendees, the event helped to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and that any possible risks can be better identified and minimised. This is the only way to prevent a second asbestos scenario. In Europe alone, estimates by EU experts anticipate the deaths of ten thousands of people in the next 20 years from the consequences of diseases attributable to what was once a miracle fibre.
For example, the current developments and/or goals of nanotechnology include:
  • The further miniaturisation of semiconductor electronics and optoelectronics and the development of innovative materials in industrial production processes, e.g. nanotubes.
  • The development of new diagnostics and treatments in medicine (e.g. contrast agents for imaging techniques in computer tomography or magnetic resonance tomography as well as new drugs containing nanoparticles to transport or store active ingredients, e.g. for the treatment of tumours).
  • Improvement of self-cleaning processes for surfaces. Numerous applications are also used to solve everyday problems, e.g. the lotus effect.
  • Nanotechnology is currently being used as corrosion protection for car bodywork. In this case, a nanoscale binding agent is used as an alternative to chromate layers during the spraying process.
  • Protection against UV radiation in modern sun creams is provided by nanoscale titanium dioxide.
  • Source: ISSA