nanotehnoloogia, nanoteknologia, nanotechnologija, nanotehnologijas, nanoteknologija,
nanotechnologii, nanotecnologia, nanotehnologijo,
science of nanotechnology could founder on the same
negative publicity that dogged genetics unless more
is done to assess risks, a Swiss report warns. Researchers
from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich found a lack of guidelines
and effort to identify potential side effects, but the Swiss authorities are
working to redress the problem.
Only two of the 32 companies in
Switzerland and Germany surveyed by the institute
had investigated the effects of absorption of nanoparticles
by living organisms. Three-quarters admitted they
had not carried out risk assessments on research
or on their products.
One in five had examined whether products containing nanoparticles could be toxic
while a quarter did not know whether tests had been carried out.
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of atoms and molecules, at dimensions
of roughly one millionth of a millimetre, to change a structure's properties.
This science has already been used to produce scratch-free paint, wrinkle- and
stain-resistant fabrics, sun lotions, skis and photographic paper.
It can also be applied to medicine and food products. For example, nanocapsules
could be used to release drugs into the bloodstream or different flavours onto
a pizza depending on the temperature of the oven.
But very little research has been carried out internationally to determine the
effects of nanotechnology on people or on the environment. No guidelines Part
of the problem, according to Michael Siegrist, a researcher at the institute,
is a lack of guidelines in Switzerland and many other countries to regulate the
"One reason for this lack of risk assessment is that companies and researchers
do not know what they should do. There are no industry standards or government
regulations yet," he told swissinfo.
"It is also difficult to find qualified people to carry out assessments even
if a company has the money and the will to do so."
Siegrist added that the nanotechnology industry in Switzerland realises that
it is in its own interests to carry out proper risk assessment but it favours
self-regulation as opposed to government interference. Public ignorance The Federal
Institute of Technology in Zurich carried out an accompanying study of public
attitudes to nanotechnology, asking nearly 900 people for their views. The findings
concluded that people are happy to use products such as skis, but were not so
keen to consume nanoparticles or put them on their skin in the form of sun lotion
Siegrist fears that the public will reject some forms of nanotechnology unless
more testing is carried out and the results made transparent.
"We found that lay people perceived more risks than the experts," he said: "The
problem with this is that we might end up in the same situation as we had with
Siegrist believes communication and targeted marketing are the keys to the industry's
"If the industry resists making claims they cannot fulfil and provides applications
that are useful to consumers, then we could avoid the problems we had with GM
[genetically modified] food," he said.
"People are more prepared to accept potential risks of mobile phones than they
are with GM tomatoes that have a longer shelf life." Action plan The Swiss Environment
Office and the Federal Health Office are working on an action plan to identify
and coordinate the currently unknown level of nanomaterials in Switzerland.
The working group aims to present proposals by the end of the year to set up
a national action plan including proposals to for risk assessment and risk management
It is also looking into the feasibility of complying with European Union and
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines.
"The most immediate threat is to the researchers and workers dealing with these
nanoparticles," Georg Karlaganis of the environment agency told swissinfo.
"We need to develop a dialogue with scientists, the industry and the public."
swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich
Source : http://www.swissinfo.org