02/12/2009

Risk Management - Nanoparticles

A new industrial revolution is under way, based on nanotechnologies. The
applications should substantially improve the performance of many products and
favour economic development, a better quality of life and environmental
protection. The very small size of engineered nanoparticles (NPs < 100
nanometres) confers them unique properties not found in larger products of the
same chemical composition. Major impacts are anticipated in every field of
economic and social activity. Most Qubec universities and several researchers
are already working on the design of new applications. Many companies are in
the startup phase or in operation, or they already incorporate NPs into their
processes to improve their products performance. The trend should be
accentuated in the years ahead. In 2007, at the international level, more than
500 nanotechnological products were commercially available, for a world market
of $88 billion, which should almost double in 2008.

The synthesis and production of these new materials currently raise many
questions and generate concerns, due to the fragmentary scientific knowledge of
their health and safety risks. Nonetheless, research has shown real risks
related to certain NPs. In general, NPs are more toxic than equivalent
larger-scale chemical substances. Their distribution in the organism is
differentiated and it is not currently possible to anticipate all the effects
of their presence. Moreover, given the large specific surface area of particles
of these products, some also present risks of fire or explosion.

These risks nevertheless can be managed effectively with the current state of
knowledge, even in this uncertain context. A recently in Canada published best
practices guide to managing the risks associated with synthetic nanoparticles
sets out a prevention strategy appropriate for the workers and researchers who
use, manufacture or synthesize nanoparticles.


More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at work