How dangerous are nano technologies?

„When dealing with nano technologies, we need risk management and, above all, transparency " - Health Minister Rauch appoints risk researcher André Gazsó as chairman of the national nano advisory body for the third time in a row

From left to right: André Gazsó, Health Minister Johannes Rauch, Eva-Kathrin Ehmoser (Photo: BMSGPK / Nicolas Cetl)

The Nanoinformation Commission (NIK), the official advisory body for the Ministry of Health on issues relating to the safety of nanomaterials and advanced materials since 2013, brings together the who's who of the Austrian nanoscene to discuss important topics such as consumer protection, workplace safety and chemical regulation.

Perceiving risk as an element

André Gazsó, a risk researcher at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and his deputy, Eva-Kathrin Ehmoser (BOKU Vienna), can look back on a successful second term of office: "So far, we have succeeded in creating transparency and non-partisanship when it comes to nanosafety. The NIK brings together high-ranking representatives of Austrian nano research and regulation to discuss and evaluate current developments in this area. This enables us to continuously improve safety for consumers and employees. The NIK also pays particular attention to current developments in the area of standardization and public risk communication. We can communicate transparently about nanomaterials and advanced materials via our web platform "nano-information.at". In this way, politicians have the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest scientific research and explore potential."

Considering the social impact

In addition to his work at the ITA, Gazsó is also a lecturer at the BOKU and head of a course at the Austrian Standards Institute: "The topic of nanotechnologies is very much about uncertainty and how we as a society deal with new technological developments. Through the NanoTrust project, which I lead and which has been active since 2007, I have become more and more involved in the area of risk management. Now, together with the Austrian Standards Institute, we have also been able to implement a course to become a certified risk manager." On June 24, André Gazsó was reappointed Chairman by Federal Minister Johannes Rauch at the Ministry of Health. Together with his deputy Eva-Kathrin Ehmoser, Head of the Institute for Synthetic Bioarchitectures at BOKU, he will now continue to lead the commission until 2028.

Representatives of the social partners sit on the commission alongside scientists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and many Austrian universities as well as representatives of ministries and authorities. "This diversity is so important because there are so many different aspects to nano. There is not just one 'nanotechnology'. There is a multitude of different processes, techniques and methods that are relevant for various sectors of the economy and also in everyday life," emphasizes Gazsó.