Nano businesses at risk from regulators and insurers, says Cientifica

July 8, 2005

Brussels, 07 Jul 2005

A new paper from consultant company Cientifica has outlined the dilemmas facing businesses considering investing in nanotechnology applications, in particular in terms of future regulations and legal action.

Any company producing or making use of nanomaterials is currently grappling with three questions, according to the report, entitled 'Nanotechnologies: risks and rewards': Are there any intrinsic risks associated with any of the company's current or future products, and over what timescale? What regulation is likely, and how will it affect the company's products? How will the above affect the company's business model?

'Currently, anyone producing or using nanomaterials is at the mercy of both insurers and regulators,' states the paper. This vulnerability has come about because so little is known about how safe nanomaterials are. If sections of nanoscience or nanotechnology are suspected to be unsafe, then new regulation could have a negative impact upon a company's activities and business plan. If it is proved to be unsafe, the same company could be at risk from compensation claims and high insurance premiums.

Concerns over the safety of nanomaterials focus on the possibility that a smaller size may increase toxicity or even make some materials toxic that are not dangerous in bulk. The higher surface area of some nanomaterials, for example carbon nanotubes, may also pose an increased risk of toxicity. Finally, there is some evidence that ultrafine particles can penetrate through skin, or translocate from the respiratory system to other organs.

The paper suggests that future legislation is likely to be less restrictive if regulators are able to make the distinction between risk and hazard. '[It] must be remembered that hazards are an intrinsic property of a material, whereas risks can be managed and minimized,' states Cientifica.

Potential risks have already been noted by regulators and insurance companies, but the lack of a commonly accepted definition of a nanoparticle is holding back progress, according to Cientifica. Meanwhile, 'a single industrial accident involving nanoparticles could precipitate a knee-jerk reaction, covering not just the material in question, but perhaps the whole field of nanotechnology,' states the report. To access the report, please visit: Remarks: Cientifica will be participating in the World Nano-Economic Congress taking place in Singapore from to 28 September:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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