06/25/2012 | Editor: Doris Popp
Experts from the scientific, business, consumer protection and regulatory communities took a closer look at nanotechnology safety research at a panel discussion during this years' Achema.
People by nature interpret the term “risk” very differently. However, when you are talking about the risk potential of new technologies and materials, you need to reach a consensus on what the word risk actually means. That was one of the key messages at a panel discussion during Achema where experts from the scientific, business, consumer protection and regulatory communities took a closer look at nanotechnology safety research. What do we know at this point about the human toxicology effects of nanoparticles, what research remains to be done, how safe are products that are already on the market and what is the level of acceptance for nanoparticles by the general public?
There was no disagreement about the huge potential, but Gaby Fleur Böl from the German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) warned against “repeating the same mistake that was made years ago with genetic engineering”. She along with consumer protection expert Rolf Buschmann expressed the need for more transparency, dialogue and research to address right from the outset any concerns which people may have.
“Zero risk cannot be the objective. Instead, we have to manage potential risks in a responsible manner,” said Armin Grunwald from KIT. It is enormously important that besides investigating real potential toxicological effects of nanoparticles, the probability and type of exposure are included in a risk analysis, observed Harald Krug from Empa in Switzerland.
“Naturally, only an uncaged tiger is dangerous,” said Thomas Epprecht from Zumikon, and he expressed the need for prioritization of exposure research. Toxicologist Krug claimed that “nano products” currently on the market are toxicologically harmless if used in a responsible manner, but he criticized the flood of studies, some of which were not carried out in accordance with toxicological standards, which contribute to public concern.
He called for greater transparency and harmonization in the scientific community along with a paradigm shift in scientific publications. “There must be equal opportunity to publish non-effect studies on nanomaterials.”
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