A Wiki Project on Safe Handling of Nanoparticles Proposed

A couple of weeks ago I blogged on the recent report from the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) that detailed the findings from two workshops it held in 2007.

I was dubious of the true international scope of the workshops and the resulting report, and was concerned over a seeming lack of cooperation between the major groups investigating environmental, health and safety (EHS) aspects of nanoparticles.

My post received a response from Kristen Kulinowski from Rice University, who was kind enough to direct me to the full list of participants, which can be found here (Check Sections 1-36 for Workshop 1 and 2-78 for Workshop 2).

According to Dr. Kulinowski, the full list of participants would reveal a far more international group of participants than is reflected in the Steering Committee. However, from my perspective the lists still remain largely US-centric. In the first workshop held in Bethesda, MD nearly 80% of the participants are from the US. In the second workshop held in Switzerland the ratio improves, but not as much as you might expect based on its location in Europe, with still nearly 50% of the participants coming from the US.

My other question with this work was where are the channels of cooperation between it and other international groups looking at establishing standards for EHS in nanotechnology, namely with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International).

Dr. Kulinowski conceded that there was still too much fragmentation in efforts to find solutions regarding EHS concerns on nanotechnology. However, she seemed to offer as a possible solution a new initiative at ICON to create an international Wiki on occupational practices for safe handling of nanomaterials to address this problem.

It is an innovative approach and may help pool the breadth of knowledge and understanding we have regarding the subject. But it seems leadership is still the lacking component.

Nanotoxicological research lacks the necessary measurement tools to address the specific problems of nanoparticles, some standardization of testing and measurement needs to be established so that two seemingly identical experiments do not come up with polar opposite results, and, perhaps most importantly, there needs to be some mechanism that will bring new research into international governmentâ''s policies and regulations.

Again, I applaud the work of ICON to try and gather as much information as possible, albeit it from a slightly less international perspective than I would have thought.

But information is not enough. Hopefully we can arrive at some wisdom on the subject and that some international body can make that wisdom actionable.

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