I'ts a matter of size
Quick intro movie about nanotechnology
Nanoparticle safety drew a big crowd
The room was packed with medical doctors, scientists and policy-makers when Nano Connect Scandinavia co-hosted a seminar on nanoparticle safety at Ekocentrum in Gothenburg on 2 November.
Moderated by Rickard Arvidsson, the event was opened by Bengt Kasemo, professor in chemical physics at Chalmers, who gave a general introduction to nanotechnology. He spoke about its promises for the future as well as the need for the governing bodies to step up to the challenge when it comes to creating a regulatory framework to manage risk.
Ethel Forsberg, partner at U&W and former Director General of the Swedish Chemicals Agency, concluded that regulation is lacking.
– Today, we focus on the substances that are being produced in the largest amounts. The substances that nanoparticles are made up of do fall under the regulation of the REACH framework. However, since the volumes are so small the bar is set to low when it comes to nanoparticles.
She emphasised that one should not view nanotechnology as a problem, since it has potential to help solve some of today's major concerns, such as climate change. But it would be foolish not to consider risk, in order to steer development in a positive direction.
– We are still stuck at the first step of the legislative process: to map and understand the risks. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Professor and medical doctor Lars Barregård gave a presentation on pollution and how it affects our health. He said that even though the mechanism is not fully understood, most researchers would agree that it is the particles that we should be most concerned about.
– Risk equals hazard times exposure. It is important to consider both, said Steffen Foss Hansen, researcher at DTU Environment. He then proceeded to give an overview of the studies that have been carried out this far on nanoparticles and human- and ecotoxicology.
Hansen was followed by Ulla Birgitte Vogel, professor in nanotoxicology at The National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Denmark.
– On the nanoscale, it is surface area that is relevant to discuss, not mass, she said and explained that experiments on mice have shown how exposure to nanoparticles can cause inflammation and congested arteries.
The last speaker, Åsa Boholm, professor in social anthropology, gave a presentation on how the general public perceives the risk associated with nanotechnology.
– If you feel that there is something to gain from the technology, you will tend to perceive the risk as lower. That is why the word "nano" is used as a sales pitch for products like car polish, but is seldom mentioned when it comes to cosmetics.
Go to the Ekocentrum website to download the presentations.