NanoTrust Dossiers – Results of the project "NanoTrust"
The team of the project NanoTrust offers on an irregular basis “Dossiers”, approximately three to six page summaries of the state of knowledge on current issues in the existing nano debate in an accessible language, but on a firm scientific base.
The NanoTrust Dossiers are published in german and english language and can be visited at EPUB.OEAW.
- Fuchs, Daniela; Gazsó, André (2015) Why the public perception of risks is to be taken seriously: The special case of nanotechnology (NanoTrust dossier No. 042en – February 2015). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
Considering the public perception of risks with regard to technology controversies has increasingly become important since the debates on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe. The perception of risks by the population is not comparable with assessments by experts as the concerns stem from a possible direct effect on citizens’ lives, thus subject to different dynamics. This dossier focusses on factors which influence the public perception of risks and elaborates on their relevance for regulatory policies. Moreover, it introduces several European studies on familiarity and risk perception of nanotechnology. The studies’ results are similar: While citizens know comparatively little about nanotechnology, the questioned subjects also perceived it as having a relatively low risk potential. There are several possible explanations: Alongside a general technology-friendly attitude, positive media reporting and the broad range of the technology – which makes it difficult to scandalize it as a whole -, a basic trust in institutions concerned with risks and an accurate, proactive regulatory policy could play an important role.
- Greßler, Sabine; Part, Florian; Gazsó, André (2014) "Nanowaste" – Nanomaterial-containing products at the end of their life cycle (NanoTrust Dossier No. 040en – August 2014). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
Based on their special chemical and physical properties, synthetically produced nanomaterials are currently being used in a wide range of products and applications. At the end of their product life cycle, nanomaterials can enter waste treat ment plants and landfills via diverse waste streams. Little, however, is known about how nanomaterials behave in the disposal phase and whether potential environmental or health risks arise. There are no specific legal requirements for a separate treatment of nanomaterial-containing wastes. Virtually no information is available about the nanomaterials currently in use, their form and composition, or about their amounts and concentrations. The current assumption is that stable nanoparticles (e.g. metal oxides) are neither chemically nor physically altered in waste incineration plants and that they accumulate especially in the residues (e.g. slag). These residues are ultimately dumped. The disposal problem in the case of stable nanoparticles is therefore merely shifted to the subsequent steps in the waste treatment process. Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are almost completely combusted in incineration plants. Filter systems seem to be only partially efficient, and a release of nanoparticles into the environment cannot be excluded. Incinerating nanomaterials contained in products can also promote the development of organic pollutants as undesired by-products. Only few studies are available on the behavior of nanomaterials in landfills. Moreover, recycling such products could release nanomaterials, most likely when these are shredded and crushed.
- Greßler, Sabine; Gazsó, André (2013) Definition of the term "nanomaterial" (NanoTrust Dossier No. 039en – May 2013). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
In order to regulate nanomaterials and to determine mandatory product labelling a generally accepted agreement what the term “nanomaterial” means has to be reached beforehand. The EU Parliament requires that a definition shall be science-based and comprehensive. Furthermore, for regulatory measures in individual sectors, it shall be unambiguous, flexible, easy and practical to handle. During the past few years various institutions came up with suggestions for a definition, leading to a recommendation of the EU commission, which finally is being accepted into new and existing EU legislation. Some provisions in this proposal are controversial and the implementation into specific sectoral legislation constitutes a major challenge.
- Haslinger, Julia (2013) Nano: Governance through Dialogue (NanoTrust Dossier No. 038en – May 2013). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
In the last years, dialogues have become increasingly important for politics and science as well as scientific communication. More and more, they serve as an important feature for the responsible handling of nanotechnology at the national and European level. German speaking states have therefore laid emphasis on dialogues as a tool for communication and information in their nanotechnology action plans.
The projects described in the following were largely initiated by the respective authorities as implementation measures of the national nanotechnology action plans. With the exception of the information meetings, these measures in general took place between experts and decision makers in camera. For example, with regard to Austria the experts’ group Nanotechnologie-Informations-Plattform is described.
Very seldom have decision makers initiated any public dialogues. One unique dialogue process with citizens is described, namely publifocus events in Switzerland, where the results had a direct influence on policy development. In addition to those dialogues which contributed to the national political process, occasionally also smaller dialogue events took place in the context of research projects, for example the focus groups in Germany and Austria of the project NanoSafety for the EU Parliament.
- Haslinger, Julia; Hocke, Peter; Hauser, Christiane (2012) Nanotechnology in the media – On the reporting in representative daily newspapers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (NanoTrust Dossier No. 037en – October 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung: Wien.
- Eisenberger, Iris; Nentwich, Michael (2012) The EU code of concuct for nanosciences and nanotechnologies research (NanoTrust Dossier No. 036en – December 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
- Simkó, Myrtill; Fries, René (2012) (Nano)-Titanium dioxide (Part III): Environmental effects (NanoTrust Dossier No. 035en – December 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung: Wien.
- Simkó, Myrtill; Fries, René (2012) (Nano)-Titanium dioxide (Part II): health hazard potential (NanoTrust Dossier No. 034en – December 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
- Fries, René; Simkó, Myrtill (2012) (Nano-)Titanium dioxide (Part I): Basics, Production, Applications (NanoTrust Dossier No. 033en – November 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung: Wien.
- Greßler, Sabine; Gazsó, André (2012) Nano in the Construction Industry (NanoTrust Dossier No. 032en – August 2012). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
In the construction industry and in architecture, nanotechnology and nanomaterials provide new opportunities. “Nano-products” for construction purposes are currently found in four main sectors: cement-bound construction materials, noise reduction and thermal insulation or temperature regulation, surface coatings to improve the functionalities of various materials, and fire protection. At the present time, nanomaterials – and therefore “nano-products” – remain considerably more expensive than conventional alternatives due to the required production technology, and the technical performance of many products remains to be demonstrated. Both industry workers as well as end users can come into contact with nanomaterials when using a “nano-construction material” and need to be protected from potential health hazards. Information on which nanomaterial is found in which form and concentration in a product is often unavailable, particularly to end users. Once a nanomaterial is solidly embedded in a matrix, for example in concrete or in insulation material, then the probability of exposure is very low or non-existent according to current knowledge, as long as the product is not destructively worked or processed. When workers spray a nano-surface layer or mix mortar at a construction site, for example, they are subject to a potential health hazard by inhaling the dust or tiny droplets of liquid (aerosols). As “nano-construction products” currently play a subordinate role on the market, the current environmental threat due to nanomaterials appears to be low. Nonetheless, virtually no data are available on exposure, so that no comprehensive risk assessment can currently be undertaken for any nanomaterial.