Whilst the global players in industry are rapidly moving forward to take advantage of the new opportunities and prospects offered by nanotechnologies, it is imperative that such developments take place in a safe and sustainable manner. The increasing use of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in consumer products has raised certain concerns over their safety to human health and the environment. There are currently a number of major uncertainties and knowledge gaps in regard to behavior, chemical and biological interactions and toxicological properties of ENMs. As dealing with these uncertainties will require the generation of new basic knowledge, it is unlikely that they will be resolved in the immediate future. One has to consider the whole life cycle of nanoproducts to ensure that possible impacts can be systematically discovered. For example, life cycle assessment (LCA) – a formalized life cycle concept – may be used to assess the relative environmental sustainability performance of nanoproducts in comparison with their conventional equivalents. Other less formalized life cycle concepts in the framework of prospective technology assessment may uncover further detailed and prospective knowledge for human and environmental exposure to ENMs during the life cycle of nanoproducts. They systematically reveal impacts such as cross product contamination or dissipation of scarce materials among others. The combination of different life cycle concepts with the evolving knowledge from toxicology and risk assessment can mitigate uncertainties and can provide an early basis for informed decision making by the industry and regulators.
- Life cycle concepts
- Engineered nanomaterials
- Life cycle assessment (LCA)
- Engineered nanoparticles
- Sustainable and responsible innovation
- Environment, health and safety (EHS)