NANOTECHNOLOGY RISK ASSESSMENT CASE STUDY WORKSHOPS

The goal of these workshops is to develop a research strategy for the comprehensive assessment of the potential risks of selected nanomaterials. This effort is founded on the EPA Nanotechnology White Paper and seeks to extend and refine the recommendations of the White Paper. In focusing on specific case studies in a systematic and comprehensive manner, workshop participants would be convened with certain objectives in mind: (1) initially, not to conduct formal risk assessments or hazard evaluations, but to use available information and principles to identify data gaps and research needs that will have to be met in order to carry out adequate risk assessments in the future; (2) within the structure of guided discussion and expert judgment methods, to interact and be informed by each other’s perspectives, and thereby to synthesize a broader understanding of the potential environmental and health impacts related to nanomaterials; (3) to prioritize needed research, data collection, methods development, monitoring, and analyses, based on study feasibility, reducing assessment uncertainties, averting unintended consequences, and other considerations; (4) to use the outcome of formal expert judgment exercises as the foundation for a comprehensive research strategy for nanotechnology risk assessment needs; (5) to conduct such exercises iteratively or periodically as more information becomes available and limited assessments can be performed, thereby leading to refined judgments on research needs. Although the primary focus of this effort is on potential risks associated with nanomaterials, the approach can be expanded to consider the trade-offs of such technology, i.e., both the benefits and risks, as sufficient information becomes available to support such assessments.

Abstract

Nanotechnology is expected to present both benefits and risks to human health and the environment. The assessment of risks related to nanotechnology requires information on the potential for exposure to, and adverse effects of, nanomaterials and their by-products. To help ensure that research efforts are efficiently directed toward providing such information, research needs must be identified and prioritized. Toward this end, a series of workshops involving an array of technical experts and stakeholders will be held to examine selected case studies of nanomaterials. Case studies will use a comprehensive approach that encompasses product life cycle (feedstocks, manufacturing, distribution, storage, use, disposal, recycling), multi-media environmental transport/transformation processes, exposure scenarios, and ecological and human health effects, as well as specific risk assessment and risk management issues. Although an initial paucity of data necessitates a more qualitative than quantitative approach, formal techniques will be used to derive expert judgments from invited participants so that a risk-oriented strategy can be produced.

History/Chronology

06/30/2009First Workshop planned for June 2009