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ICON Report Finds Nanotech Policies Lacking

Photonics.com
Oct 2006
HOUSTON, Oct. 19, 2006 -- The nanotechnology industry needs to do a better job of documenting its environmental, health and safety practices regarding potentially hazardous nanomaterials and sharing that information, according to a report released yesterday by the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON).

ICON issued a comprehensive review of existing efforts to develop "best practices" for handling nanomaterials in the workplace. The work was performed by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) as part of a two-phase project to catalog how industry is managing the potential occupational safety risks posed by nanomaterials.

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

The Phase I report, "Current Knowledge and Practices regarding Environmental Health and Safety in the Nanotechnology Workplace", offers a review and analysis of existing efforts to develop "best practices." The report finds that efforts to catalog workplace practices have not systematically documented current environment, health and safety practices in a variety of workplace settings and geographies. Moreover, it finds that some existing documents are not publicly available.

In the second phase of the project, the researchers interviewed a range of US and international firms to produce an international snapshot of workplace practices in nanotechnology industries. ICON said it plans to issue a report of those findings Nov. 13.

"This first report shows the need for better information about how industries are dealing with the unknowns about nanomaterials," said ICON director Kristen Kulinowski. "The Phase II survey will shed light on existing practices so that a global dialogue can move forward on safe handling practices."

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.

The report can be viewed at: http://icon.rice.edu


GLOSSARY
nanotechnology
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
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