International Council on Nanotechnology studies occupational safeguards

March 15, 2006

The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) has awarded $55,000 to researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara to conduct a "Review of Best Practices for Nanotechnology Safety."

ICON, a coalition of academic, industrial, governmental and civil society organizations, is administered by Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN).

"ICON is working to document current practices for identifying, managing and reducing risks – across all lifecycle phases – for the production, handling, use and disposal of nanomaterials," said Kristen Kulinowski, executive director of CBEN. "Our goal is to identify the safest way to work with nanomaterials, and to do that we need to identify the best approaches in use today by industries that are already developing and using nanomaterials."

The best practices initiative is intended to help companies manage potential nanotechnology risks with more certainty. ICON also hopes the initiative will help inform risk management efforts that are underway at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.

The project leader at UCSB is Patricia Holden, professor of environmental microbiology. The UCSB team includes Magali Delmas, assistant professor of business policy, Richard Appelbaum, professor of sociology and global and international studies, and Barbara Herr Harthorn, research anthropologist, PI, and co-director of UCSB's NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS-UCSB).

Work at UCSB will proceed in two stages. The first involves a comprehensive review of all existing "best practice" development efforts. In the second stage, the researchers will interview a broad range of companies internationally to determine current practices. One of their major goals will be "to identify critical needs for the standardization and implementation of safe practices in the nanotechnology industry in different parts of the globe." ICON plans to make the results of the project public by the end of the year.

Dr. Harthorn commented, "The ICON-funded study will provide essential data on current nanotech industry standards and practices for enhancing the environmental and health safety of nanomaterials. By providing comparative data on companies in the US, Europe and Asia, it will help shed light on new safety models as they are being implemented and also help identify where they are most needed. This work will provide important baseline data for NSF-funded research the CNS-UCSB is planning on risk and society issues, and we are delighted to partner with the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Management."

Source: Rice University

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