Study for the Swiss Hazardous Incident Ordinance
Risks of nanomaterials under the microscope
Nanotechnology is continually increasing in terms of research, economic and social significance. However, working with synthetic nanomaterials also conceals risks. Empa has produced a study for the Federal Office for the Environment (Bundesamt für Umwelt, BAFU) in order to clarify whether special regulations should be incorporated into the Federal Hazardous Incident Ordinance with regard to human and ecotoxicity. The conclusion, based on present knowledge, was this: At present, the safety measures for chemicals are also sufficient for synthetic nanomaterials.
Image source: Bayer AG
Synthetic nanomaterials are already manufactured and processed in Switzerland in various plants. It is therefore essential that, as well as identifying opportunities, potential risks to humans and the environment are detected at an early stage and, if necessary, appropriate preventative measures are implemented. Within the scope of the federal government’s action plan to establish principles for safe nano-technology, Empa evaluated whether special regulations need to be incorporated into the Hazardous Incident Ordinance, on account of the potential danger and various hazardous incident scenarios. The objective of the Hazardous Incident Ordinance is to protect the population and the environment from serious damage caused by extraordinary events. To this end, researchers visited the Empa “Technology and Society” and “Materials Biology Interactions” departments of several companies that process synthetic nanomaterials, analysed data from human toxicological and ecotoxicological studies and backed up their findings with their own experience and experiments in the field of nanotechnology. The report entitled, “Human and Ecotoxicity of Synthetic Nanomaterials – Initial Insights for Major Accident Prevention” has now been published by BAFU.
Tried and tested methods still sufficient
Further research is urgently required
At present there is no need for action with regard to possible “nano accidents” in Switzerland is the report’s conclusion. However, it is important that we always bear current findings from research and the world of industry in mind and conduct regular checks as to whether the statements mentioned in the report are in keeping with the latest technical advances.