Nanotechnology Project


Workshop Brings Together Scientists to Discuss Engineered Nanomaterials and Human Health Hazards

April 6-7, 2006

On April 6-7, 2006, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, Rice University, the International Council On Nanotechnology (ICON) and Environmental Defense co-sponsored a workshop on engineered nanomaterials and human health hazards. At the workshop, a multidisciplinary group of more than two dozen scientists was asked to address two questions: “In light of the special physical, chemical, and biological properties of engineered nanomaterials, what information is needed to assess the human health hazards of nanomaterials that are currently in or likely soon to reach commercial production?” and “How can information needed to assess [such hazards] be obtained most expeditiously and efficiently?” A report with outcomes of the workshop will be published later this year.

The workshop was made possible in part by a generous gift from Burt and Deedee McMurtry to ICON through Rice University.

The need to improve understanding of nanomaterial hazards was highlighted by reports this week that two aerosol spray products sold under the brand name “Magic Nano” have led to more than 100 calls over a 10-day period to poison control centers and the product maker in Germany, Switzerland and Austria from people suffering from respiratory problems. The exact cause of the respiratory effects has not yet been determined, and it is not clear whether the products actually contained nanoparticles or whether the reported effects were due to nanoparticles.

The International Council on Nanotechnology is a multi-stakeholder group whose mission is to assess, communicate, and reduce nanotechnology environmental and health risks while maximizing its societal benefit. ICON’s efforts are founded on the belief that partnership activities between governments, industry, academia and non-governmental organizations are the key to an environmentally responsible nanotechnology industry.

Rice University is consistently ranked one of America’s best teaching and research universities. Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology is a National Science Foundation Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center dedicated to developing sustainable nanotechnologies that improve human health and the environment. CBEN is a leader in ensuring that nanotechnology develops responsibly and with strong public support.

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 400,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.