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.
NanoTrust dossiers in english language:
(->german NanoTrust dossiers)
- Rose, Gloria; Pavlicek, Anna; Gazsó, André (2019) Safe-by-Design – The Early Integration of Safety Aspects in Innovation Processes (NanoTrust dossier No. 050en – May 2019). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
A number of concepts address safety-relevant issues of innovative materials and products. The Safe-by-Design (SbD) concept is one of these, and aims to take account of these safety issues early on and during the entire product development process. The nano-specific concepts of SbD are intended to address prevailing uncertainties about potential risks to the environment and human health at the beginning stages in the development of new nanomaterials and products. The basic assumption of the SbD concept is that risks can be reduced through the choice of materials, products, tools and technologies, making them as safe as possible. Particular attention is paid to the product development stage, when it is still possible to intervene to control the selection of these factors. In line with the precautionary principle, the early integration of safety in the innovation process is generally seen as desirable.
- Greßler, Sabine; Part, Florian; Gazsó, André; Huber-Humer, Marion (2018) Nanotechnological Applications for Food Contact Materials (NanoTrust dossier No. 049en – July 2018). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
Nanomaterials can improve the properties of food contact materials. Innovations of this kind are of particular interest for food packaging made out of plastic materials. The purpose of their use is to improve food storage and so to guarantee both freshness and quality. A further goal is to improve the technical properties of materials in order to make them sturdier more resistant to abrasion, and easier to process. Food contact materials are subject to a number of EU consumer protection regulations. Nanomaterials require authorisation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), being responsible for assessing their safety. For nanomaterials authorised for use in the EU, specifications and restrictions are laid down in order to prevent consumers being exposed to them or to keep exposure as low as possible, and so to rule out any danger to health. At the end of the product lifetime, workers of recycling and waste treatment facilities may be exposed to higher levels of ultra ne particles or particulate matter may also be released unintentionally. To date, however, it has not been demonstrated that recycling polymers containing nanomaterials leads to any increased exposure of employees. With regard to environmental protection, little is known at present about the specific behaviour of nanomaterials and composites during waste treatment processes. There is also a need for comprehensive research on how far nanomaterials can be recycled, in order to develop sustainable nanotechnology.
- Fuchs, Daniela (2015) Green nano: Positive environmental effects through the use of nanotechnology (NanoTrust dossier No. 045en – May 2015). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
The green nano design principles developed by the German NanoCommission constitute an attempt to establish consensus-based guidelines for environmentally friendly and sustainable production. This initiative fits into the objective of international research and development policy (e.g., Responsible Research and Innovation, RRI) and shall enable to incorporate desired societal aspects into technology developments as soon as possible. The present dossier is concerned with the question to what extent a concept along those lines can contribute to environmentally friendly developments in the area of nanotechnology. For this purpose, it introduces research projects which have implemented certain aspects of the green nano design principles. Moreover, on the basis of technological and scientific research and development, the question is raised whether or not, and if so, to what extent concepts such as green nano design principles can support the incorporation of environmental aspects into research.
- Part, Florian; Greßler, Sabine; Huber-Humer, Marion; Gazsó, André (2015) Environmentally relevant aspects of nanomaterials at the end-of-life phase – Part II: Waste recycling and disposal (NanoTrust dossier No. 044en – April 2015). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) can potentially be released during all waste treatment processes and can accumulate in residual materials, scrap materials, secondary raw materials or composts. Nonetheless, only few studies are available on the fate and behavior of ENMs during recycling and disposal. In Austria more than half of the waste produced by households is collected separately and undergoes further treatment as recoverables, biogenic waste, hazardous household waste or as waste electrical and electronic equipment. The remainder is processed either in waste incineration facilities or in mechanical-biological waste treatment facilities. Initial studies in waste incineration facilities show that thermally stable ENMs (metal oxides) accumulate mostly in the solid residues (slag, flue dust). In Austria, these are largely disposed of in residual-waste landfills. ENMs can also be released again during the recycling of products (for example quantum dots from LEDs of waste electrical and electronic equipment or CNTs made of composite materials). During recycling, nanosilver apparently negatively affects the mechanical properties of plastics. ENMs can be disposed of directly as production wastes, as components of “nanoproducts” or as secondary wastes such as ENM-containing sewage sludge or combustion residues. Worldwide, an estimated 60 to 86 % of the most commonly used ENMs end up in landfills. Currently, no generalized statements can be made because ENMs are applied in very diverse sectors and their fates in the environment can differ considerably.
- Part, Florian; Greßler, Sabine; Huber-Humer, Marion; Gazsó, André (2015) Environmentally relevant aspects of nanomaterials at the end of the use phase – Part I: Wastewater and sewage sludge (NanoTrust dossier No. 043en – February 2015). Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA): Wien.
Synthetically produced nanomaterials (Engineered Nanomaterials – ENMs) can potentially be released along the entire lifecycle of a product. The use of products with suspended ENMs, such as sunscreen lotions, almost certainly leads to an immediate environmental input. In contrast, ENMs that are solidly integrated in a product matrix can only be released by mechanical and/or chemical processes. ENMs can enter the environment either directly or indirectly (e.g. during the disposal phase), where both their properties and environmental conditions can determine their aggregation behavior. Weathering experiments with facade paints show that only a very small proportion of the contained titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2-NPs) are released. In paints with silver nanoparticles (Ag-NPs), however, up to 30% of the particles can leach out over time. In the case of textiles treated with Ag-NPs, up to 10% of the silver contents can be washed out and enter the wastewater. Tests show that Ag-NPs can be transported over long distances in sewers without deposition. These are partly transformed into water-insoluble silver sulfide. Up to 85% of the TiO2-NPs and up to 99% of the Ag-NPs are removed via sewage sludge during waste water treatment, whereby Ag-NPs and other silver forms are transformed into water-insoluble silver chloride and -sulfide. Once ENMs enter surface waters, a differentiation between natural and engineered nanoparticles becomes complicated. Studies on TiO2-NPs, which can enter swimming waters via sunscreen lotions, show that these aggregate quickly and can subsequently be measured in the sediment.
- 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.