Thirty out of 60 surveyed participants at the World Resources Forum feel skeptical about Nanotechnologies. 25% feel good and 25% don’t know what Nanotechnologies are.
The reality is that we use Nanotechnologies in our everyday life. We eat, wear, or apply on our faces products that incorporate components that have been engineered at the molecular scale. From the skin cream you applied this morning, the camera you take pictures with to your toothpaste: Nanotech is everywhere.
So why do almost half of the participants feel so suspicious?
Photo Credit: Jepster via Flickr/Creative Comons
According to Marcel Weil and Claudia Som, both Nanotech engineers, we face many challenges. Foremost, we are confronted to the “Nanotech Bubble”: we have currently very little knowledge and data available, yet there are high speculations and expectations on what Nanotechnologies could improve.
When applied to resource efficiency, they enable radical innovation. Per example, by developing manufactured, potent and multifunctional nanomaterials we help decrease material consumption. Labs are developing from energy saving insulation materials, better water and air purification techniques to improved energy storage efficiency (more powerful and longer lasting batteries).
However as MIT Professor, Jeff Steinfeld points out, we are at the same stage point as we were 40 years ago with the new development of the chemistrial industry. We could be making tremendous damaged to our environment and health without realizing it now but in 40 years.
In reality, the technology we are dealing with is still immature; and on top of the possible damages, one can’t ignore the ethical questions behind Nanotechnologies. If nanotechnology in medicine makes it possible for us to enhance ourselves physically, is that ethical? In theory, medical nanotechnology could make us smarter, stronger and give us other abilities ranging from rapid healing to night vision. Should we pursue such goals? (source: Howstuffworks)
For Jesus Maria Alquezar Sabadie, the European Commission is currently making risk assessment at the center of it’s nanotechnology policies. The core question is how to harness their potential while addressing their potential risks? ”The European Commission aims at reinforcing nanotechnology and, at the same time, boosting support for collaborative R&D via toxicological and ecotoxicological studies.”Additionally, the Commission is performing a regulatory inventory, covering EU regulatory frameworks that are applicable to nanomaterials (chemicals, worker protection, environmental legislation, product specific legislation etc.).
However Marcel Wiel holds a different opinion, for him, what the standards determined by the European Commission are not necessarily transposed to the research level. And on top of that, regulations and legislations differ from one country to the other, within and most importantly, outside of the EU.
In my opinion, the crucial question is how fast will we understand the implications and changes in our world implied by the development and use of such technologies.
And you: Will you ever use your skin care cream the same way?
- Survey among 60 World Resources Forum Participants
- Interview with Marcel Weil, Claudia Som and Jesus Maria Alquezar Sabadie (Podcast)
- What do nanotechnologies mean for resource efficiency ?
- The Guardian: Nanotechnology in every day life
- Howstuffworks: How Nanotechnology works
- Rense: 36 Nano tech risks seriously worry scientists
- Cordis European Commission Homepage
- Cordis European Commission Safety Aspects