Selection of products
Most products in this inventory satisfy three criteria:
- They can be readily purchased by consumers, and
- They are identified as nano-based by the manufacturer OR another source, and
- The nano-based claims for the product appear reasonable.
In every instance, we have tried to identify specific products from specific producers. However, since nanotechnology has broad applications in a variety of fields, we have included a number of “generic” products that you can find in many places on the market such as computer processor chips. These are clearly labeled in the inventory. In some cases, companies offer several similar nanotechnology-based products and product lines. To reduce redundancy, we have just included a few samples in this inventory and hope that they will provide an initial baseline for understanding how nanotechnology is being commercialized.
There are probably some products in the inventory which producers allege are “nano,” but which may not be. We have made no initial attempts to verify manufacturer claims about the use of nanotechnology in these products, nor have we conducted any independent testing of the products. We have tried to avoid including products that clearly do not use nanotechnology, but some have undoubtedly slipped through.
In order to address these deficiencies and ascertain higher quality data; registered users are encouraged to submit relevant data pertaining to nanoparticle function, location, properties, potential exposure pathways, toxicity and life cycle assessment. Registered users can also update basic product information as well as add new products.
The information contained within this inventory is solely based on information that can be readily found on the internet: non-internet based sources have not been used. By taking this approach, all entries can be validated by anyone with internet access.
Products have been identified for inclusion in the inventory following systematic web-based searches. These have ranged from exploratory searches, through searches on specific categories of goods, to following up leads from multiple sources (including media articles). Information from relevant listservs and RSS feeds was also used.
All identified products have been tested against the selection procedures outlined above, before being listed in the inventory.
Listed products include information on the manufacturer, country of origin, product category, claims supporting the application of nanotechnology, and the date on which the entry was last updated. In addition the nanomaterial, nanomaterial function, nanomaterial location/characterization, potential exposure pathway, and coatings information is provided when identified by the manufacturer, supported by supplemental data or can be reasonably assumed. Hyperlinks are also provided to the manufacturer’s web site.
Some products may be marked “Archive,” indicating that the availability or the "nano" claim of the product can no longer be ascertained. For these products we have attempted to locate a cached version of the original product website using The Internet Archive.
Entries have been placed within generally accepted consumer products categories and sub-categories:
- Appliances (Heating, cooling and air; large kitchen appliances; laundry and clothing care)
- Automotive (Exterior; maintenance and accessories)
- Goods for Children (Basics; toys and games)
- Electronics and Computers (Audio; cameras and film; computer hardware; display; mobile devices and communications; television; video)
- Food and Beverage (Cooking; food; storage; supplements)
- Health and Fitness (Clothing; cosmetics; filtration; personal care; sporting goods; sunscreen)
- Home and Garden (Cleaning; construction materials; home furnishings; luxury; paint)
- Cross-Cutting (Coatings)
As new products are entered, new categories and sub-categories will be added as needed.
How much we know
The following classification system was developed to provide a confidence level in the "nano" claims gathered for each product.
- Category 1 (Extensively verified claim)
- The manufacturer has provided information supporting the nanotechnology claim and this claim was verified by an independent source. Actual product has been tested for nanomaterial or supporting documentation references such product or product was described in more than one published scientific documents (such as research studies, patents, or reports). For example: The manufacturer website lists a datasheet with nanomaterial characteristics plus a scientific research paper or patent also describes the product.
- Category 2 (Verified claim)
- The manufacturer has provided information supporting the nanotechnology claim and this claim was verified by additional supporting documentation about the specific nanomaterial that is claimed to be in the product. For example: The manufacturer website lists a datasheet with nanomaterial characteristics plus a scientific research paper or patent also describes the nanomaterials used in this product.
- Category 3 (Manufacturer-supported claim)
- The manufacturer has provided information supporting the nanotechnology claim. For example: The manufacturer provides a datasheet with nanomaterial characteristics, electron microscopy images, etc.
- Category 4 (Unsupported claim)
- The manufacturer claims that the product contains nanotechnology, but no specific information is provided to support this claim. For example: The manufacturer website mentions the use of "nanotechnology" and provides no additional information.
- Category 5 (Not advertised by manufacturer)
- Nanotechnology claim is provided by source other than manufacturer. Typically a news story, or third-party stores selling the product.
Life Cycle Assessment Overview
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a systematic methodology for quantifying the environmental impacts of a product, process, or system. This assessment method is governed by various standards including ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. LCA ideally considers all phases of the life cycle from extraction to manufacturing to use to disposal. However, for some products, one or more of these phases may not be significant relative to the others.
LCA requires a well-defined system boundary as well as a functional unit which defines the specific function of the product for accurate comparisons. Increasingly, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are being used to set a standard comparison basis for products which fulfill the same basic function. An EPD reports verified environmental data in predetermined impact categories based on LCA methods and in accordance with ISO 14025.
LCA compiles an inventory of the inputs and outputs within the system boundary and then multiplies this inventory by characterization factors which estimate the level of associated environmental damage. Various impact assessment models exists but they generally includes models which consider the fate, transfer, and exposure of materials to humans and the environment. While energy, carbon dioxide emissions, and toxicity tend to dominate discussions today, a broader range of environmental impacts can be considered using LCA. The impacts include, but are not limited to, climate change, ozone depletion, photochemical smog, eutrophication, acidification, human health, ecosystem damage, and resource depletion. For decision-making across the spectrum of environmental impacts, LCA results may also be normalized and weighted in order to compare different environmental impacts.
While LCA can provide very useful information for decision-making with nanomaterials and the products containing them, very few characterization factors have been determined for environmental issues uniquely related to nanomaterials. This means that current nanomaterial LCAs typically do not include environmental issues which depend on the size and chemical behavior of these materials. Such considerations, like nanomaterials toxicity to humans and other species, are under investigation and can be added to the LCA framework as they are completed and confirmed.
For nanomaterials, LCA can currently be used either to assess the production of the raw material itself or to assess a product containing nanomaterials. In the former case, the LCA would be considered a cradle-to-gate analysis with system boundaries from extraction of the natural materials to refining or processing these materials up to the point of a raw material such as a nanopowder or nanomaterials in solution. In this case, LCA results could be used to compare the environmental impacts for nanomaterial production. Such LCA information is also useful for LCA inventory databases which compile all the inputs and outputs for materials so they can be used in more extensive LCA.
A cradle-to-cradle analysis for nanomaterials would include the cradle-to-gate analysis as well as an analysis of the manufacturing, use, and disposal of a specific product containing nanomaterials. This type of LCA is more informative for decisions regarding specific products but also necessarily depends on the cradle-to-gate LCA information to define the inventory for the extraction and manufacturing phases.