5.1.1 Environment EHS Report
Maintaining and restoring the quality of air, water and soil is one of the great challenges of our time. The scarcity of water, both in terms of quantity as well as quality poses a significant threat to the well-being of people – especially in developing countries. Conventional remediation technologies have so far shown only limited effectiveness in reducing the levels of pollutants - especially in soil and water. Nanomaterials will be able to perform significantly more effectively than larger particles because of the much greater surface area. Most effective will probably be a combination of more than one (nano)technology in a hybrid system and membrane technologies are expected to play a role in this.
So far only few industrial companies consider environmental technologies as a core business, even though there is obvious potential for market applications (e.g. drinking water purification) (MORRISON, 2006; RICKERBY and MORRISON, 2007). A large hurdle are the initial costs for the material, pilot run and facilities. Morrison (2006) suggests to link environmental issues with public health as a driver for creating markets.
Various applications have been successfully demonstrated at the laboratory scale but most of them still require verification of efficacy and safety in the field and are thus still far from market. Further research is also needed to assess the environmental impact of the nanoparticles released (NOWACK and BUCHELI, 2007). There are also serious concerns about the release of free nanoparticles in the environment used for remediation purposes (NOWACK, 2008).
The ObservatoryNANO report on the technology sector Environment summarises the technologies and applications used for the treatment of air, water and soil (Mueller and Nowack, 2009). This EHS analysis considers those nanomaterials outlined within the context of their application and provides a summary of what is known in relation to potential hazard of and exposure to the material in question. Finally, the analysis outlines some key EHS considerations and basic guidance for those developing or using the technologies outlined within the report.
For all of those nanoparticles identified as having potential EHS impact, toxicological knowledge is still emerging, although based on what is known to date a reasonable approximation of potential hazard may be made. The key common knowledge gap across all nanoparticles however is the lack of exposure measurements for the scenarios and applications in question. As the ObservatoryNANO Project progresses, it is expected that these knowledge gaps will be addressed (at least in part) and thus that later EHS reports will be able to reach more resolute conclusions on the risks posed by those nanomaterials in consideration.
The full text of the Environment Technology Sector EHS Analysis may be downloaded as a pdf from the 'Related Documents' section at the bottom of this page.
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