Nanotechnology is a major growth industry; if it is to reach its full economic potential in a responsible manner, product safety must be addressed and assessed.
Given the novelty of these products, it is important to collect and assess data both on “conventional” inventory flows, such as energy use, and to assess the toxic effects of the nanomaterials.
Prospective environmental assessments are crucial, because they let us:
1. quantify the opportunities in terms of environmental benefits at an early stage,
2. prevent or minimize potential exposure and adverse effects to humans and ecosystem that are specific to the technology (i.e., toxic effects of nanoparticles).
It is also essential to assess the social acceptance of nanotechnology (or at least of some of its key applications), thereby accounting for the tradeoffs between risks and benefits. Without adequate consideration of public concerns nanotechnology applications or products run the risk of becoming stigmatized in the public discourse.
The challenge of this PROSUITE case study is to develop methods for the prospective evaluation of the health and environmental as well as social impacts of nanomaterials and also their benefits before they enter into full-scale production and use.
The applications included in this case study are:
All applications have a high potential production volume.
The case study consortium gathers the following partners:
Close contacts will be developed with the nanotechnology research community. In particular, contacts are established with EU-funded projects Nanosh, Nanodevice, Nanosafe and Saphir, dealing with the use, recycling and/or final treatment stages of nanotechnology-based products, looking at their health and environmental impacts in a life cycle based approach.
The publication http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es2001248 is a deliverable of the PROSUITE project (April 2011). It assesses the climate footprint of the entire life cycle of nanosilver T-shirts and takes also aquatic toxicity during use and disposal phase of the nanosilver textiles into account. Moreover, the life cycle inventory contains nanosilver production and coating data for different technologies and scales.
More publications will follow.