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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative D Workshop Proceedings: Responsible Development of Nanotechnology The Workshop on Responsible Development of Nanotechnology was held on March 24-25, 2005, in Washington, D.C., as part of this study to discuss the need for standards, guidelines, and strategies for ensuring the responsible development of nanotechnology. The presentations included information on NNI programs and the status of standards and guidelines for nanotechnology R&D, and some also identified areas in need of further planning and action. SESSION I: SOCIETAL DIMENSIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY E. Clayton Teague Director, National Nanotechnology Coordination Office The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has focused on the societal dimensions of nanotechnology since its inception. Even during the planning stages, federal investments were balanced to foster innovation in nanoscale science and technology while addressing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications. Other areas of interest include education-related activities, such as development of materials for schools, undergraduate programs, technical training, and public outreach; and broad societal implications of nanotechnology, including economic, workforce, ethical, and legal implications. The NNI has continued to make EHS
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative issues important by establishing societal dimensions as one of seven program component areas (PCAs). The unique properties of nanoscale materials make focusing on the societal implications critical. For example, the characteristics of new nanostructures require full analysis and investigation. The chemical and physical properties of nanoscale gold clusters differ greatly from those of more macroscopic metallic forms. Materials at such dimensions show unusual quantum effects that can dominate surface and electronic properties. However, the unique properties of these materials are a double-edged sword: they can be tailored for beneficial properties but also have unknown consequences, such as new toxicological and environmental effects. NNI’s strategic plan identifies the importance of societal dimensions of nanotechnologies, and also focuses on responsible development of nanomanufacturing and safety. In 2004, memos from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to federal agency heads reiterated this focus. Those memos noted that “agencies should support research on the various societal implications of the nascent technology” by placing “a high priority on research on human health and environmental issues … [and] cross-agency approaches.” The result is that 11 federal agencies have allocated $38.5 million to R&D focused on the EHS implications of nanotechnology, and $42.6 million to R&D on ethical and legal issues and public communication. These funds represent 8 percent of all federal funds devoted to nanoscale materials and devices. NNI is directly pursuing EHS initiatives on several fronts. First, NNI is encouraging agencies to develop data on the potential toxicity of nanomaterials. For example, in October 2003, the National Toxicology Program under the Department of Health and Human Services began to study the potential toxicological effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, single-walled carbon nanotubes, and quantum dots. NNI is further devoting $1 million to research on the toxicity of nanomaterials at such institutions as the University of Houston and the University of Rochester. The National Cancer Institute’s Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory has developed a characterization cascade for use in preclinical evaluations of nanomaterials intended for cancer therapeutics. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will fund research from a competitive solicitation that addresses potentially harmful aspects of nanomaterials, whether nanomaterials bioaccumulate, and whether they pose health and environmental risks. This research will also focus on the fate, transport, and transformation of nanoscale materials after they enter the body and the environment. In 2004, NIOSH established the Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) to coordinate nanotechnology research across the Institute. NTRC’s mission is
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative “to provide national and world leadership for research into the application of nanoparticles and nanomaterials in occupational safety and health and the implications of nanoparticles and nanomaterials for work-related injury and illness.” In 2005, NIOSH published a Strategic Plan for nanotechnology research. The goals are to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses caused by nanoparticles and nanomaterials; apply nanotechnology products to prevent such injuries and illnesses; promote healthy workplaces through intervention, recommendations, and capacity building; and enhance global workplace safety through national and international collaborations. In August 2003, NNI formed the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group to coordinate federal programs and efforts among research and regulatory agencies. This group, which meets regularly, is fostering standards for nanotechnology and advancing the understanding of environmental implications and the impact on workers’ health. The group is also documenting practices recommended by NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for working with such materials. NNI is further identifying specific R&D needed to improve regulatory decision making on nanotechnology, and helping regulatory agencies develop websites and position statements on the responsible use of these technologies. NNI also formed a Nanotechnology Public Engagement Group to develop approaches for communicating more effectively with the public. NNI is also trying to promote multidisciplinary education related to nanoscale science and engineering, and to ensure that the nation’s labor force has the skills and knowledge to work with nanotechnology. NNI has also worked to ensure that all stakeholders can participate in public debate and decision making regarding nanotechnology. Toward this end, NNI not only maintains its own website but has also created websites and outreach activities at federally funded nanotechnology centers and Department of Energy user facilities. NSF’s Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network was announced in October 2005. This award will support a national network of science museums, providing informal educational activities for schoolchildren as well as adults. NSF funding is also creating two Centers for Nanotechnology in Society, one at Arizona Statue University, and the other at University of California at Santa Barbara. Through a network of social scientists, economists, and nanotechnology researchers, each Center will address key issues regarding the societal implications of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The Centers will also formulate a long-term vision for addressing EHS concerns; collaborate with partners or affiliates on the responsible use of nanotechnology; involve a wide range of stakeholders; develop a clearinghouse for information on communicating about nanoscience and nanotechnology, and engage the public in meaningful dialogue.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative NSF has further funded a Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering, which focuses on grades 7-12 and the undergraduate level. The Department of Defense (DOD) collaborates with NSF in the NSF-Navy Civilian Service Fellowship/Scholarship program. This program seeks students at the bachelors, masters, or doctoral level in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics who wish to commit a portion of their careers to serve at a Navy R&D center. The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is supporting the education, training, and career development of postdoctoral as well as mid-career investigators for multidisciplinary nano-oncology research. NNI intends to perform R&D on environment, health, and safety in parallel with the discovery of new nanoscale materials and properties. NNI funding of EHS and societal issues has therefore grown substantially along with its investments in nanotechnology. Regulatory mechanisms for assessing and regulating environmental impact, workplace safety, and other health risks are being mobilized. Research at federal laboratories and in private industry and academia will help determine how nanotechnology-based materials may differ from conventional ones in their implications for public health and the environment. Vicki Colvin Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology Rice University As an NSF center of excellence on nanotechnology, the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology has focused on the challenge of communicating the risks of nanotechnology to the public. Interactions with the public have made the center keenly aware of the importance of standards and terminology in defining this emerging technology and developing it responsibly. For example, when it is burned, diesel fuel emits carbon ultrafine particles that are dangerous to human health. However, the properties of such particles differ from those of engineered nanomaterials, such as fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. Yet discussions with journalists have indicated that the distinctions were not initially clear to the public and required further attention from researchers to define nanomaterials precisely. Classifying nanoscale particles and identifying relevant characteristics and properties are important steps in preventing generalizations about all matter at the nanoscale. Without distinct classifications, the public too often places all nanoscale particles and nanotechnologies under one giant umbrella. For example, researchers have accumulated data on the toxicology of waste particles such as those that result from burning diesel. However, nanoparticles manufactured for a specific use may
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative not carry the same risks. Without more accurate nomenclature, the public has no way of differentiating the impacts of incidental versus engineered materials. Questions about nomenclature and standards affect the regulatory process directly. For example, buyers of carbon 60 now receive a Material Safety Data Sheet that labels elemental carbon and carbon black as “nuisance dust”—even though carbon 60 differs from those two substances. Like names for polymers, nomenclature for nanomaterials should indicate their surface type, as that information can shed light on how they interact with their environment. Although industry consortia usually drive efforts to create products, nomenclature, and standards, the business case for a single investment in nanotechnology products is not yet compelling outside the electronics industry. Nanotechnology is still embryonic, and most companies don’t see where standards fit into their bottom line. A large fraction of participants in the development of terminology and standards will therefore come from academia. The top level of terminology—that is, how best to divide nanomaterials between physics and chemistry—is the most controversial, so the need for multidisciplinary coordination in determining nomenclature is great. Although ANSI will coordinate and adjudicate this activity, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International has established the Committee E56 on Nanotechnology to actually create the standards for nanotechnology. ASTM has recruited researchers to write the documentation that informs the voluntary process for developing consensus on these standards. Subgroups have formed to author documentation on terminology and nomenclature, metrology, and EHS issues. Barbara Karn U.S. Environmental Protection Agency NNI’s definition of nanotechnology has three aspects. First, it deals with materials with at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nm. Next, it includes materials whose properties change because of their size. Finally, nanotechnology involves the ability to create unique structures with fundamentally new building blocks of atomic and molecular clusters. The ultimate goal is the ability to assemble essentially anything from scratch. Discussion of responsible development of nanotechnology is complex because it includes more than a single material or even class of materials, encompassing instead materials with a wide range of properties and products with many uses. Nanotechnology also encompasses a wide range of different industrial sectors, including but not limited to the automotive and chemical industries, pharmacology, medicine, communications, electronics, and information technologies. Consumer products, equipment for manufacturing nanomaterials and products,
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and advanced instrumentation are already on the market. Nanotechnology is also converging with other technologies, such as biotechnology and information technology, to form even more powerful new scientific and industrial approaches. First-generation nanoparticles—which include, for example, polymer fillers, ceramic particles, and nanoclays—are “passive,” in that they have a single function and are usually incorporated into other materials. Second-generation nanotechnologies are more active, smart, and multifunctional structures. The third generation—nanosystems, and, finally, systems of nanosystems—will appear over the next 5 to 10 years. These more advanced nanomaterials and products will include various assembly techniques, nanoscale architectures and networking, biomimetic materials, therapeutics, and targeted drug delivery. Regulators of these technologies can take two approaches in protecting human health and the environment, based on their view of nanotechnology. One school of thought views nanotechnology as an inherently continuous extension of existing fields. If that is the case, the current regulatory system can keep up with development and adequately address the potential impacts of this new technology. Another school of thought believes that nanotechnology will prove revolutionary scientifically, industrially, and socially. In the latter case, regulators need to develop more nimble approaches to address these paradigm shifts. Which viewpoint is chosen will determine how regulators approach responsible research and development of nanotechnology. NNI bears some obligation to ensure responsible development of nanotechnology because it oversees $1.2 billion in federal funding—2 to 3 percent of which is devoted to research on environmental, health, and safety implications. Industry is also a key source for researching the potential impacts of nanotechnology, as the field may account for a $1 trillion piece of the nation’s economic pie in 5 to 10 years. Reflecting growing international dialog on responsible R&D on nanotechnology, many countries are focusing on both applications and implications for the environment and human health. as well as its socioeconomic and ethical implications. As evidence of this concern, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development proposed a special session on the impact of nanotechnology on chemical safety at the June 2005 meeting of the Chemicals Committee and the Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides, and Biotechnology. For its part, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating potential applications and implications of nanotechnology. The former includes sensing pollution, remediating hazardous waste, ensuring green manufacturing, and producing green energy. The latter includes life cycle assessment, toxicology, exposure, bioavailability, fate and transport in the environment, and bioaccumulation of nanomaterials.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Green nanotechnology offers the opportunity to manufacture materials atom by atom to produce less waste and pollution, to create lightweight, stronger products that use less energy and fewer materials in their manufacture, and to ensure better industrial controls to minimize pollution. Two examples include synthesizing nanotubes using microwaves to reduce energy use in their manufacture, and the use of molecular nanolithography for bottom-up assembly of nanoscale electronic devices. Nanotechnology also offers the opportunity to clean up hazardous waste. An example is remediating groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene by using iron nanoparticles, which more easily move through the soil and are more reactive than larger particles due to their increased surface area. EPA’s nanotechnology research program embraces six thrusts. These include building a community of researchers that work in both nanotechnology and the environment, institutionalizing nanotechnology within EPA’s mission, ensuring consideration of EHS concerns in other federally funded research programs, working with industry to ensure that it develops nanotechnology responsibly, providing international leadership in EHS, and providing education and outreach to the public. Overall, EPA sees itself as the conscience of NNI to make sure that EHS issues are considered in all NNI agencies’ research. Research on nanotechnology has made huge strides within the past year. Nanoscale products have become a reality, nano-related green manufacturing is accelerating, and the research in toxicology of nanotechnology has become a familiar concept. Myriad professional societies are addressing EHS-related issues, and NNI’s EHS activities continue to grow. EPA sees its central goal as using nanotechnology to clean up existing environmental damage and prevent future damage, to ensure a sustainable future. Daniel Gamota Motorola and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers The now infamous McKinsey report predicted that by 2000 only a million cell phones would be in use. That prediction vastly underestimated the market, because it did not recognize that today’s cell phones would contain as much horsepower as humanity used to go to the Moon in 1969. Silicon’s intrinsic properties have not changed. Rather, nanoscale features now enable cell phones to work faster at a given cost, and provide higher performance within the same physical dimensions and weight. Given the revolutionary nature of nanotechnology, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) resolved to spearhead work on standards for characterizing the new technology, which could propel hundreds of electronics and photonics products. Specifically, IEEE has partnered with other standards-
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative developing organizations to develop certificates of compliance and standard operating procedures for high-volume manufacturing, to ensure reliable output, to protect workers, and to address environmental concerns. IEEE first convened a workshop for representatives from industry, academia, and international laboratories to examine the kinds of standards needed for nanoscale materials, devices, and systems. IEEE then established a working group to draft standard methods for measuring the electrical properties of carbon nanotubes. The result is consensus-based standards—posted on the Web and circulated via the Internet—on how to electronically characterize carbon nanotubes. Because characterizing nanomaterials requires cross-disciplinary expertise, IEEE also worked with Semiconductor Materials and Equipment International (SEMI) and ASTM International to propose standards for the types and characteristics of nanoparticles, and nomenclature and terminology for nanotechnology. Without such standards, researchers cannot duplicate experiments performed by others and confirm their results. Standards will ensure a seamless interface between silicon-based devices and nanoelectronics to provide interoperability between mature and revolutionary technologies. Interoperability standards enabled the creation and growth of industries such as Web services, storage networks, and cell phones. Standards are critical to enable industry to purchase well-characterized nanoparticles from different suppliers—start-up companies are already selling carbon nanotubes—and design early nanotechnology-based products that will likely interface with existing technologies. SESSION II BIOMEDICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Andrew Maynard1 Senior Service Fellow, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health The responsible use of nanotechnology raises two key questions. Do the unique features of engineered nanomaterials lead to unique safety and health risks? How can we maximize the benefits of nanotechnology while minimizing the risks from unintended consequences? Information on what exactly is different about these materials, and the significance of their structure, will prove key to answering these questions. Important structural elements that can affect the chemical and biological features of these 1 Currently a senior advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative materials include their size, shape, surface area, and surface activity. In addition, physical properties, such as surface charge density and optical and magnetic phenomena, may be of importance. Engineered nanomaterials, which potentially present new challenges for human health, have two attributes: they can enter the body, and their nanostructure can lead to specific biological activity. Such materials can include nanoparticles that can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, such as aerosols, powders, suspensions, and slurries, as well as materials that degrade during grinding, cutting, machining, or other occupational use. To address these risks responsibly, we need to understand several critical issues, including exposure routes, doses, and toxicity. Standard risk analysis requires characterizing these materials and exposures accurately, as well as conveying the resulting information to people who need it. We are not starting with a blank slate in answering these questions. The field of occupational hygiene has matured considerably, and analysts have accumulated extensive information about how people respond to hazardous materials. We can extrapolate from such information—such as how a material’s surface area and activity influence the biological response to it—to investigate nanotechnology. For example, information on the inhalation hazard of insoluble aerosols with different surface chemistries can contribute to assessing new nanomaterials. Although nanotechnology may be revolutionary as well as evolutionary, we do have a starting point in dealing with risks. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is congressionally mandated to take the lead in investigating risks related to occupational safety and health. NIOSH has already focused significantly on three aspects of exposure to nanoparticles: what kind of research on risk is needed, which partnerships are essential to investigating such risks, and how best to communicate the resulting information. For example, the agency is tapping internationally recognized experts to characterize toxicity, exposures, and the impacts on human health of single-walled carbon nanotubes. The agency convened the first two international meetings on nanotechnology and occupational health to jump-start a global initiative drawing together people from different sectors to address these issues. NIOSH is also developing a website to broadcast information on nanotechnology and occupational health, including not only the toxicity and risk of engineered nanomaterials but also effective practices for working with them. Occupational safety and health are key societal issues that require attention for the responsible development of nanotechnology. If workers are exposed to unconventional nanostructures on the job, we must address their impact to ensure safe workplaces. Existing knowledge provides a starting point for addressing these risks, and we can rely on evolutionary approaches in evaluating the health impacts of “simple nanomaterials.” However, nanotechnology challenges conventional
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative approaches, and we need to address the potential consequences and impacts of this technology—that is, those that are unconventional and unintended. Proponents of nanotechnology predict that it will create many jobs. That means large numbers of people will be working with these materials. We must have a framework to address the occupational impacts of nanotechnology on human health. Vicki Colvin Director, Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology at Rice University Professor of Chemistry, Rice University A central question for toxicologists is how nanomaterials interact with biological materials. The chemical and physical composition and structure of engineered nanomaterials such as quantum dots are precisely defined. Most are highly pure and highly crystalline, with huge surface areas and a thick organic coating. These attributes, including size, play a critical role in the biological properties of these materials. However, testing their toxicity is challenging because such materials have various dimensions and properties, such as size, shape, and surface charge density. This means that focusing on the toxicity of final nanoscale products will not work because there are too many parameters to control. Researchers must rethink their approach to evaluating the toxicity of these materials. This is especially critical because of their numerous medical applications, and the need to ensure public confidence in them. For example, the features of engineered nano carbon 60—also known as fullerenes and carbon nanotubes—are very different from those of the aerosol nanoparticles used in many pulmonary studies of the toxicity of nanomaterials. Carbon 60 (C60) can be used in a broad range of products, including anti-aging cream. However, one of the biggest applications may be in fuel cells, in which C60 allows for more efficient electron transfer. The question then becomes: Does the toxicity of C60 resemble that of molecular systems or soot, or is the toxicity entirely different? It turns out that putting carbon into a cage gives it unusual chemical properties that lead to distinctive biological impacts. To evaluate such effects, Dr. Colvin’s lab used in vitro experiments to examine the cytotoxicity of different forms of C60. That is, what dose kills half the cells in a 48-hour exposure? The investigators found that although C60 is chemically inert, its chemical and physical properties make it highly biologically active, and very toxic in cell culture, although they wouldn’t have predicted that result. Why is that true? Small sizes lead to movement across cellular barriers, and
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative toxicologists don’t yet know the size cutoff above which such translocations do not occur. This produces high concentrations and strong interactions within cell membranes, generating free radicals and thus creating damage. Therefore, nanomaterials, designed to have very special chemical properties, can lead to adverse biological impacts. Still, extrapolating to other nanomaterials is difficult. We could create thousands of dose-response curves for thousands of permutations of nanotubes. And toxicologists don’t yet know what final nanoscale products will take the form of and what properties they possess. Thus, obtaining voluminous toxicological data is less useful than understanding the fundamental correlations between specific features of nanomaterials and their biological properties. Surfaces are the vehicle for making these correlations. If chemists change the surface chemistry of C60, they find that it can be virtually nontoxic. For example, the dose-response curves show that in a hydroxylated state, C60 is nontoxic up to the limits of solubility. However, when aggregated into dry powder, it is highly toxic. The material’s biological impact—and its toxicity—depend on its surface and coating as well as its other features such as impurity levels. If we understand why a material is cytotoxic, we should be able to make it less reactive and knock out its toxicity by systematically breaking its carbon bonds and oxidizing it. Thus, if fullerenes are used in fuel cells, they should be oxidized before they are dumped into the environment. This would eliminate their cytotoxicity and adverse effects on aquatic systems. The debate isn’t over whether nanomaterials are dangerous; some forms almost certainly are. At this early stage, we need to determine what strategies we can adopt to minimize these materials’ toxicological activities. That means toxicology and nanotechnology should not proceed under business as usual, with toxicology used as the gate at the end of the process. Instead, chemists making systematic changes in materials must work with people who can measure their biological effects. Tight collaboration between materials engineers, chemists, and toxicologists could provide the essential data that can enable us to engineer safer nanomaterials from the beginning. One of NNI’s central challenges is to transform these multiple disciplines into a new one. To realize that goal, we need to recognize that the surfaces of nanomaterials have a more important impact than their composition in determining toxicity, and that toxicity can be turned on and off depending on surface coating. Forging any new discipline that combines two scientific languages is difficult. However, we must foster collaboration between particle toxicologists and nanotechnologists to provide the systematic information to ensure that the materials that drive the nanotechnology revolution are the safest we know how to make.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative less invasive treatments with fewer side effects, and taking care of basic health care needs such as cavities. Participants cited environmental cleanup and protection as the next most important desired benefit from nanotechnology, followed by better jobs and a stronger economy, better consumer products, and new materials for exploring deep space and water. They also hoped for higher-quality food, options for repairing and regenerating the body, and solutions to world problems such as desalinization, food, transportation, and energy. Participants in the groups cited military uses—including the potential for another arms race, more terrorism, and more pollution of military bases—as the most important anticipated downsides of nanotechnology. They also expressed concern about its long-term health effects and environmental footprint. However, the broadest area of concern involved nanotechnology’s social footprint, which included a potential loss of freedom of choice and privacy, a loss of control by regulators, and ethical challenges. At least two-thirds of both survey respondents and group participants do not trust government or industry leaders to manage these risks effectively. Participants with a college degree or higher expressed the lowest level of trust. Participants were most concerned about the ability of government to manage the risks of nanotechnology in medicine and industrial arenas—with the former an unexpected concern. The EIG study also investigated the reasoning underlying people’s attitudes toward nanotechnology. I found that participants based their concerns largely on experience rather than fears of out-of-control nano-robots. Indeed, they already see a lack of control and tracking of the risks of nanotechnology. The bottom line is that the public is excited about the promise of nanotechnology but wants to know how it will be managed. These results suggest that mechanisms soliciting citizens’ views on the most desired benefits and unwanted risks of technology can provide important information not available elsewhere. However, to obtain valid and replicable results for citizen forums, organizers must develop a consistent process for convening them, including a uniform process for recruiting participants and creating briefing materials, and metrics for measuring effectiveness. Some known processes create greater polarization of views, for examples and others lead to great citizen frustration. Neither is a desirable outcome, as both worsen citizen perceptions of and levels of trust in government. Although conducting citizen technology forums is challenging, ensuring a public voice in technology policy is critical. We need both evolutionary and revolutionary mechanisms for soliciting greater public input—beyond established interest groups—and for giving citizens a seat at the policymaking table. Note: Since this workshop, Dr. Macoubrie was lead author of a paper enti-
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative tled “Informed Public Perceptions of Nanotechnology and Trust in Government” released in 2005 by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The report is based on a study conducted to assess general public perceptions, which provided evidence of support for nanotechnology and its benefits, more public involvement in information sharing about nanotechnology products and developments, and a general mistrust of the government to manage technology-related risks. She also has published “Nanotechnology: Public Concerns, Reasoning, and Trust in Government” (J. Macoubrie. 2006. Nanotechnology: Public concerns, reasoning, and trust in government. Public Understanding of Science 15:221-241), a report on a 2004 experimental issue group study of concerns about and expectations for nanotechnology. Kristen Kulinowski Faculty Fellow of Chemistry, Rice University Executive Director for Policy Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, Rice University As nanomaterials begin to appear in consumer products amid talk about the potential for controlling disease, protecting soldiers, and facilitating exploration of deep space, civil society groups are focusing on the environmental, health, and safety implications of these uses. Many scientists are concerned that experience with nanotechnology will parallel that with genetically modified foods and other technologies, with early enthusiasm vanishing as health and environmental concerns emerge, prompting a backlash against widespread use. Indeed, some of the same players that oppose nuclear power and agricultural biotechnology are beginning to address the risks of nanotechnology. For example, Greenpeace has called for a moratorium on further nanotechnology research until the hazards are better understood and laboratory controls are in place. The combination of many concerned stakeholders and numerous unanswered social and environmental questions has strong potential to result in confusion and misinformation. Social science researchers are performing well-documented studies of public perceptions of nanotechnology. However, to avoid the familiar “wow-to-yuck” trajectory, the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) sees a need to engage the public in policy interactions with government and industry, and to incorporate nanotechnology into the curriculum at all educational levels. These efforts should include inviting public interest groups and citizens to participate in roadmapping workshops for nanotechnology. Toward that end, CBEN has created the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) to “assess, communicate, and reduce the environmental and health
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative risks of nanotechnology.” ICON includes representatives from academia, government, nongovernmental groups, and companies from numerous industrial sectors. ICON is based on a network model, to enable all these stakeholders to interact. The idea emanated partly from conversations with CBEN’s industrial affiliates, who worry that environmental, health, and safety concerns will add risk to their investments in nanotechnology. ICON is focusing on research on both the technical and the social risks of nanotechnology, developing standards, and creating unbiased information for the lay public. As one piece of these efforts, ICON is working with CBEN to post a comprehensive database of nanotechnology-related research on the Web, and to include lay summaries of important findings and place them in their larger context. However, such efforts need to move beyond simply assessing risk in the laboratory to consider more fundamental social and political questions. These include: Why this technology? Who needs it? Who benefits from it? Who is controlling it? Can developers be trusted? What will it mean for me and my family? Will it improve the environment? And how will it affect people in the developing world? All these questions must be part of the risk-assessment landscape. To encourage college students to address these questions, CBEN developed an undergraduate course—funded by the National Science Foundation—to enable them to distinguish fact from fiction regarding nanotechnology, and to consider what role they will play in determining its future. As part of the course, each student testified before a mock city council—which was trying to decide whether to approve a nanotechnology laboratory—representing the position of a corporate leader, a nanotechnology expert, a environmental advocate, a government regulator, a worker, or a local community group. Teachers at other universities are developing similar courses designed to encourage students to actively weigh the future of nanotechnology. Richard Denison Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense In the mid-1990s, Environmental Defense followed up on reports from the National Research Council (NRC) on the lack of information on high-volume industrial chemicals by working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry to generate better information and make it public. That effort provides a model for the constructive engagement needed to address the new class of chemical substances known as engineered nanomaterials. Familiar materials can exhibit wholly new properties when reengineered at the nanoscale. For example, the same metallic aluminum used in soda cans can be used at the nanoscale as a catalyst in rocket fuel. Subtle differences in otherwise identi-
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative cal nanomaterials—such as the degree of twist in carbon nanotubes—can affect their electrical conductivity. The upside of these properties is an enormous range of possible applications, many with potential environmental and health benefits. However, the downside is the potential for some of those same materials to enter the environment and interact with living systems in ways that pose potential risks, including a range of toxicities. For example, preliminary studies suggest that some nanomaterials may cross the blood–brain barrier or accumulate in living tissue. If the public is not convinced that developers of this potentially transformative technology and their government overseers can manage these risks, we will see a significant backlash against them, paralleling that seen with genetically modified foods. Most studies of the potential risks of nanotechnology have examined the impact of fairly high doses over short-term exposures. Because the results are preliminary, the need for more research is clear. However, until recently the government devoted just $10 million or less of the $1 billion spent annually on nanotechnology to risk-related studies. Federal agencies have since boosted their support for research on environmental, health, and safety risks to about $40 million. However, the federal government needs to devote at least $100 million annually for at least several years to better understand the implications side of the equation—a modest investment considering the magnitude of the challenge.2 The federal government must also perform other vital roles, including enhancing regulatory policies. The existing regulatory structure appears to have a number of gaps and loopholes. For example, because of the breadth of applications of nanotechnology, numerous federal agencies have potential jurisdiction, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, existing legislation allows some of these agencies to impose few requirements for pre-market testing, and so they can respond to problems mostly only after the fact. For example, the applicability of the Toxic Substances Control Act to nanomaterials is uncertain. If nanomaterials are considered new chemicals, then manufacturers must notify the EPA so it can evaluate the magnitude of the risks. However, if nanomaterials are considered existing materials, industry does not have to provide such notification. EPA has so far received only a small number of notifications from manufacturers. Confusion over nomenclature only complicates the task. These loopholes need to be closed and regulatory authority enhanced to allow adequate scrutiny of nanomaterials before they appear on 2 See Environmental Defense’s companion analysis, prepared at the request of and submitted to the NRC’s Committee to Review the NNI, which provides a rationale for this proposal.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative the market, as well as more interagency coordination and authority to address crosscutting impacts. The first step is to acknowledge that nanomaterials differ from bulk materials. Industry and government authorities also need to adopt a life cycle approach to managing nanomaterials, take interim steps to manage risks before they are completely understood, and embrace public disclosure of all risk-related information. Responsible steps include assuming that such materials and wastes containing them are toxic until proven otherwise, monitoring workplaces, and requiring worker training and effective industrial hygiene. The NNI’s Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee has a critical role to play in overseeing federal research dollars spent on health and environmental risks, and in performing a “gap analysis” of loopholes in federal oversight. To fulfill those roles, NSET should request and make public detailed information on federal agency plans for risk-related research and draw on the expertise of groups such as the NRC Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology to help shape an overall strategy. NSET must also move beyond the traditional top-down approach, giving stakeholders such as workers, consumers, and health and environmental advocates a seat at the agenda-setting and policymaking table. Dietram A. Scheufele Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison What does the public think, know, and feel about nanotechnology, and how does it form these attitudes? When we first proposed a longitudinal research project to NSF to investigate these questions, some reviewers raised the question whether assessing public opinion toward nanotechnology is even possible at this early stage. And the answer is simple: It is possible and necessary to understand how people form opinions about nanotech, especially in the absence of information. This thinking is based on two models for how laypeople obtain information and develop attitudes toward science and technology. The first model focuses on scientific literacy. This model assumes that the public has relatively limited information on scientific issues but that attitudes toward science and scientists would be more favorable if people knew more about them. However, this model is based on one inherent fallacy: that if the public learned about evidence-based inquiry and peer-reviewed findings, it would come to the same conclusions as scientists. But this assumption, of course, is flawed for two reasons. First, most research does not show a consistent link between scientific literacy and support for emerging technologies—either positive or negative.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Second, if people made decisions based exclusively on facts, we would not need systematic rules of scientific inquiry in the first place. The second model is called the “cognitive miser” model. It also holds that people know very little about most issues, but that it makes little sense for most people to develop in-depth understanding given the thousands of decisions they must make every day. However, people still form attitudes and opinions, often without having a comprehensive understanding of the issues. To do so, they rely on shortcuts and cues based on religion, ideology, coverage in the mass media, and the opinions of others, tapping these sources more heavily the less information they have. For example, entertainment media provide many people’s understanding of how scientists work by cultivating certain images of scientists in movies and TV shows. To investigate these models and better understand how people are beginning to form judgments about nanotechnology, we conducted a national survey of 706 respondents in 2004. We found that participants were most knowledgeable about the economic implications of nanotechnology, including the notion that it represents the next scientific revolution. We also found relatively high levels of basic knowledge, such as that nanomaterials are invisible to the human eye, and that nanotechnology allows modifications that do not occur in nature. However, people were less well informed about specific aspects of nanotechnology, such as the definition of a nanometer and its size compared with that of an atom. People being interviewed who said they were aware of nanotechnology before were much more inclined to express overall support for its use than people who said they had been unaware of this new technology. However, we found no significant differences between aware and unaware respondents in their perception of the risks of nanotechnology. People in both groups expressed their deepest concern about potential loss of privacy, and also cited concern about a new arms race and a loss of U.S. jobs, expressing lowest concern about self-replicating robots. Still, we did find a significant difference between aware and unaware respondents regarding perceived benefits: the former were much more optimistic about the possibilities for cleaning up the environment, treating disease, improving national security, and enhancing human abilities. The most obvious explanation is that people who were more optimistic about nanotechnology knew more about it. However, we did not find this interpretation to be supported by the data. Instead, we found that they relied more heavily on scientific media. These findings support the cognitve miser model. Specifically, what is the role of the media in influencing attitudes toward nanotechnology? Heavy users of science media may be more supportive of nanotechnology because coverage currently focuses mostly on its potential benefits rather than its risks. Today, a science writer does a majority of the reporting on nanotechnology for the
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Washington Post, while the New York Times has assigned a business reporter to such coverage. Science and business media not only inform their audiences but likely “frame” nanotechnology positively. Attitudes toward nanotechnology will change as mainstream media, rather than more specialized science and technology reporters, reframe the debate. Mainstream media will focus attention on potential downsides, and people will base their attitudes on the views of critics who cite the potential for toxic contamination and loss of privacy. Although public awareness and knowledge of nanotechnology will grow, attitudes will rest on packaging rather than content, as interest groups and policymakers offer competing frames. Scientifically based public discussion is unlikely to occur. Further research on how people make decisions regarding nanotechnology is needed to answer several questions. What frames regarding nanotechnology now exist in the public arena, and what frames are likely to appear? How do these frames become part of the media agenda? What role can scientists, industry, and science writers play in influencing these dynamics? How will public opinion develop over the long term? Answering these questions is important because we do not fully understand how the public develops its attitudes and makes decisions regarding significant developments in science and technology as these issues emerge on the public agenda. RELATED READING Altmann, J., and M. Gubrud. 2004. Anticipating military nanotechnology. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 21(4). Balbus, J., R. Denison, K. Florini, and S. Walsh. 2005. Getting nanotechnology right the first time. Issues in Science and Technology (Summer):65-71. Bergeron, S., and E. Archambault. 2005. Canadian Stewardship Practices for Environmental Nanotechnology. Bergeson, L.L. 2006. Nanoscale materials and TSCA: EPA’s NPPTAC recommends a framework for a voluntary program. Environmental Quality Management. Spring. Bhattacharyya, D., W. Chen, G. Chumanov, V. Colvin, M.S. Diallo, J. Doshi, R.E. Gawley, M.V. Johnston, S.C. Larsen, T. Masciangioli, P.H. McMurray, A. Myers, P. Pascual, D. Rejelski, M. Roco, D. Rolison, S.I. Shah, W.Y. Shih, W.M. Sigmund, D.R. Strongin, T. Sun, N. Tao, W.C. Trogler, D. Velegol, M. Wiesner, X.D. Xiang, and W.X. Zhang. 2003. Nanotechnology and the Environment: Applications and Implications. STAR Progress Review Workshop, National Center for Environmental Research, Office of Research and Development, Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cable, J. 2005. A best practices approach to minimizing EHS risk in nanotechnology manufacturing. Occupational Hazards. October 6. Available at http://www.occupationalhazards.com/articles/14129, accessed February 2006. Colvin, V.L. 2003. The potential environmental impact of engineered nanomaterials. Nat. Biotechnol. 21(10): 1166-1170. Crichton, M. 2002. Prey. HarperCollins.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Denison, Richard A., Environmental Defense. 2005. A proposal to increase federal funding of nanotechnology risk research to at least $100 million annually. Available at http://www.environmentaldefense.org/documents/4442_100milquestionl.pdf. Doraiswamy, Krishna, Environmental and safety impacts of nanotechnology: What research is needed?, presentation made at U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science Hearing, November 17, 2005. Available at http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/science/hsy24464.000/hsy24464_0.HTM. Economic & Social Research Council. 2003. The Social and Economic Challenges of Nanotechnology. United Kingdom. Elder, A., R. Gelein, M. Azadniv, M. Frampton, J. Finkelstein, and G. Oberdörster. 2004. Systemic effects of inhaled ultrafine particles in two compromised, aged rat strains. Inhalation Toxicology 16:461-471. ETC Group. 2003. The Big Down: From Genomes to Atoms. Winnipeg, Manitoba: ETC Group. ETC Group. 2004. Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-Scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture. Ottawa, Ontario: ETC Group. November. European Commission (EC). 2003. The New EU Chemicals Legislation-REACH. Available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/reach/index_en.htm. European Commission (EC). 2004. Towards a European strategy for nanotechnology. Communication from the Commission of European Communities. European Commission (EC). 2005. Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: An action plan for Europe 2005-2009. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee. July 6. Fonash, S.J. 2001. Education and training of the nanotechnology workforce. J. Nanoparticle Res. 3:79-82. Francesconi, R. 2004. Survey Shows Public Can Discern Nano’s Benefits. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Small Times Media. Friedman, S.M., and B.P. Egolf. 2005. Nanotechnology: Risks and the media. IEEE Technology and Society 24(Winter):5-11. Greenpeace Environmental Trust. 2003. Future Technologies, Today’s Choices. United Kingdom. Hampton, T. 2005. Researchers size up nanotechnology risks. JAMA 294:1881-1883. Hardman, R. 2006. A toxicologic review of quantum dots: Toxicity depends on physicochemical and environmental factors. Environmental Health Perspectives 114:165-172. Health and Safety Executive. 2004. Health Effects of Particles Produced for Nanotechnologies. United Kingdom. HM Government. 2005. Response to the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering Report: “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties.” London: HM Government. HM Government. 2005. Characterising the Potential Risks Posed by Engineered Nanoparticles. London: HM Government. Hood, E. 2004. Nanotechnology: Looking as we leap. Environmental Health Perspectives 112: A740-A749. Institute of Medicine. 2005. Implications of Nanotechnology for Environmental Health Research. Lynn Goldman and Christine Coussens, eds. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2004. Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. International Risk Governance Council. 2006. Survey on Nanotechnology Governance. Volume A. The Role of Government. Geneva. January. Joy, B. 2000. Why the future doesn’t need us. Wired 8(04).
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Kalpin, M.C., and M. Hoffer. 2005. Nanotechnology and the environment: Will emerging environmental regulations stifle the promise? NSTI Nanotech 2005 Conference and Trade Show, Anaheim, Calif., May 8-12, 2005. Kurzweil, R. 1999. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Viking Adult. Lam, C.-W., J.T. James, R. McCluskey, and R.L. Hunter. 2004. Pulmonary toxicity of single-wall carbon nanotubes in mice 7 and 90 days after intratracheal instillation. Toxicological Sciences 77:126-134. Lewenstein, B.V. 2005. What counts as a “social and ethical issue” in nanotechnology? HYLE-International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry 11:5-18. Macoubrie, J. 2005. Informed Public Perceptions of Nanotechnology and Trust in Government. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Meridian Institute. 2004. Report of the International Dialogue on Responsible Research and Development of Nanotechnology. Meridian Institute. 2005. Global Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the Poor: Opportunities and Risks. Available at http://www.nanoandthepoor.org.gdnp.php. Nanoforum. 2005. Fourth Nanoforum Report: Benefits, Risks, Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Nanotechnology. Second Edition. For more information, see http://www.nanoforum.org. Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee, Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). 2001. Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Washington, D.C.: NSTC. Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee, Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council. 2005. The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Research and Development Leading to a Revolution in Technology and Industry. Supplement to the President’s FY 2006 Budget Request. March. Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee, Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). 2005. Regional, State, and Local Initiatives in Nanotechnology. Washington, D.C.: NSTC. Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee, Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). 2005. Nanotechnology: Societal Implications—Maximizing Benefits for Humanity. Washington, D.C.: NSTC. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2005. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. (prepublication copy). Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 2005. Strategic Plan for NIOSH Nanotechnology Research: Filling the Knowledge Gaps. Washington, D.C.: NIOSH. Nel, A.,T. Xia, L. Mädler, and N. Li. 2006. Toxic potential of materials at the nanolevel. Science 311:622-627. Oberdörster, G., A. Maynard, K. Donaldson, V. Castranova, J. Fitzpatrick, K. Ausman, J. Carter, B. Karn, W. Kreyling, D. Lai, S. Olin, N. Monteiro-Riviere, D. Warheit, and H. Yang. 2005. Principles for characterizing the potential human health effects from exposure to nanomaterials: Elements of a screening strategy. Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2:8. Phibbs, P. 2004. Nonprofit institute to work with industry, organizations to develop voluntary standards. Bureau of National Affairs, June 17, p. A-6. Phoenix, C., and E. Drexler. 2004. Safe exponential manufacturing. Nanotechnology 15:869-872. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). 2005. The National Nanotechnology Initiative at Five Years: Assessment and Recommendations of the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel. Washington, D.C.: PCAST. Rejeski, D. 2004. The next small thing. The Environmental Forum. Washington, D.C.: The Environmental Law Institute.
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A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Reynolds, G.H. 2002. Forward to the Future: Nanotechnology and Regulatory Policy. San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute. Reynolds, G.H. 2003. Nanotechnology and regulatory policy: Three futures. Harv. J. Law Technol. 17(1):180-209. Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. 2004. Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties. United Kingdom: Royal Society. Royal Society and the Science Council of Japan. 2005. Report of a Joint Royal Society–Science Council of Japan Workshop on the Potential Health, Environmental and Societal Impacts of Nanotechnologies. United Kingdom: Royal Society. Salamanca-Buentello, F., D.L. Persad, E.B. Court, D.K. Martin, A.S. Daar, and P.A. Singer. 2005. Nanotechnology and the developing world. PLoS Medicine 2(5):e97. Semmler, M., J. Seitz, F. Erbe, P. Mayer, J. Heyder, G. Oberdörster, and W. Kreyling. 2004. Long-term clearance kinetics of inhaled ultrafine insoluble iridium particles from the rat lung, including transient translocation into secondary organs. Inhalation Toxicology 16:453-459. Singer, P.A., F. Salamanca-Buentello, and A.S. Daar. 2005. Harnessing nanotechnology to improveHarnessing nanotechnology to improve global equity. Issues in Science and Technology (Summer):57-64. Sternstein, A. 2005. EPA data littered with errors and gaps. August 24. Available at http://www.fcw.com/article90389-08-24-05-Web. Swiss Re. 2004. Nanotechnology: Small Matter, Many Unknowns. Zurich, Switzerland: Swiss Reinsurance Company. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. s/s 2601 et seq. 1976. Available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/defs/html/tsca.htm, accessed February 2006. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. s/s 2602 (2)(a). 1976. Available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/defs/html/tsca.htm, accessed February 2006. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. s/s 2602 (9). 1976. Available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/defs/html/tsca.htm, accessed February 2006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2005. Nanotechnology white paper (external review draft). Available at http://www.epa.gov/osa/pdfs/EPA_nanotechnology_white_paper_external_review_draft_12-02-2005.pdf. U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science Hearing, The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology, April 9, 2003. Available at http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/science/hsy86340.000/hsy86340_0.HTM. Warheit, D.B., B.R. Laurence, K.L. Reed, D.H. Roach, G.A.M. Reynolds, and T.R. Webb. 2004. Comparative pulmonary toxicity assessment of single-wall carbon nanotubes in rats. Toxicological Sciences 77:117-125. Warner, J.C., A.S. Cannon, and K.M. Dye. 2004. Green chemistry. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 24:775-799. Weiss, R. 2004. “Data Quality” law is nemesis of regulation. Washington Post, August 16. Weiss, R. 2005. Nanotechnology regulation needed, critics say. Washington Post, December 5. Wilsdon, J., and R. Willis. 2004. See-Through Science: Why Public Engagement Needs to Move Upstream. United Kingdom: Demos.
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