Is it possible to judge today whether nanotechnologies are preferable to existing technologies? To make an informed judgment, we must be able to compare the environmental and health risks involved with using engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in products, against the risks of existing technologies. NanoFATE provided tools to assist in such comparisons.
In Europe today it is important to gather good information about the safety of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is a major growth industry; if it is to reach its full economic potential in a responsible manner, uncertainties over product safety must be addressed and reduced. Scientists and regulators recognize that there are gaps in our knowledge, preventing us from fully assessing the risks and the safety of engineered nanoparticles. To fill those gaps:
- We need to answer the question: “Where do ENPs end up when they wash out of nanoproducts, or otherwise enter the environment?” - NanoFATE provided advanced methods for tracking the “fate” of ENPs in the environment as they travel likely disposal routes.
- We also need to answer the question: "What undesirable health effects on living organisms may be produced by ENPs?" - NanoFATE conducted risk assessments or studies of the potential effects on animal or plant species that are likely to be exposed to ENPs that have entered the environment.
- Finally, we need systematic ways of combining the information from these various studies - NanoFATE showed how to produce risk maps for various areas of Europe.
Learn about what we did by reading our Newsletters and feature articles.
Today, consumer uses of nanotechnology products are already widespread, and they will be growing. Here are at least two types of reasons for conducting the environmental fate studies and risk assessments that were mentioned above, and for building reliable tools for these studies:
- Firstly, remaining in ignorance places the environment at risk. Delays in undertaking such studies could increase the probability that an unintended consequence of nanotechnology may emerge – without good methods to obtain good safety information, we might remain unaware of an environmental or health risk that should and could be prevented.
- Secondly, nanotechnology has been judged to be an important sector for European economic development. This economic opportunity could be jeopardized if potential environmental effects are not identified, prevented and controlled.
Thus, the work conducted in NanoFATE is both timely and relevant at the European scale: NanoFATE focused on just the types of case studies that will support the development of appropriate risk assessment tools.
Learn in detail about stakeholder positions and views on nanosafety regulatory issues by downloading a NanoFATE Travel Report (Jan. 2013 Brussels workshop concerning the EU 2nd Regulatory Review of Nanomaterials).
And please read our Newsletters, and in particular, Newsletter 4 intended for a broad audience. You will get a sense of the scientific adventure that was NanoFATE.