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Survey of Northeast Firms Identifies Safety Challenges to Nanotech
Today, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies released the results of a new survey of New
England-based nanotechnology companies aimed at discovering how firms in almost every sector of the economy address the possible environmental, health and safety (EHS) impacts of new nanoscale materials and products. The survey found that these firms lack a clear roadmap of government EHS
expectations and regulations for successful commercialization, as well as the information needed to meet those expectations.
Last year, worldwide investment in nanotechnology topped $12 billion
dollars and the value of nanotechnology goods manufactured globally reached
$50 billion. But the survey indicates that as nanotech industrial and
consumer applications enter the market, U.S. companies need more
information and guidance from suppliers, trade associations, government
regulatory bodies and others to manage risks effectively.
The report, authored by John Lindberg and Margaret Quinn of the
University of Massachusetts Lowell, is drawn from an online survey
distributed to 180 managers from nanotechnology firms in the Northeast. It
included in-depth, follow-up interviews with 12 firms.
The region is home to one of the greatest concentrations of companies,
universities, government laboratories and organizations working on
nanotechnology in America. Some firms in the study are located in
Cambridge, Mass., the nation's second locality to consider a nanotechnology
Lindberg and Quinn found that 80 percent of large firms were taking
steps to manage nanotechnology EHS risks, compared to only 33 percent of
small and micro companies and 12 percent of firms at start-up stage.
John Lindberg, the principal investigator on the study said, "Many
smaller firms recognize the need to address risks proactively, but few have
the resources to do so. At present, the majority of survey participants
expect to rely on suppliers to provide nanomaterial risk management
information in the form of Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). But these
do not always reflect the latest health and safety information, and
regulatory or consensus guidance for these new materials is lacking."
David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies,
noted, "The current MSDS for carbon nanotubes sold over the Internet treats
them as graphite -- the same material used in pencils -- despite nanotubes
bearing no more than a passing resemblance to this material. Clearly,
companies are not being given the guidance they need. The findings from
this study are consistent with other surveys of nanotech businesses in
California, New York, and around the world. Firms are flying somewhat blind
into the future and need a clear set of rules, a sense of the emerging
regulatory landscape, and access to relevant research on risks in order to
ensure both nanotechnology safety and profits."
The report is available at: http://www.nanotechproject.org/145
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and
manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one
billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. By
2014, Lux Research projects that $2.6 trillion in global manufactured goods
will incorporate nanotechnology, or about 15 percent of total global
About The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable
Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the
public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications
For more information, please click here
Phone: (202) 691-4016
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