Title: Nanotechnology and the Environment
Publisher: United Nations Environment Programme
Publication Year: 2007
JRC N°: JRC36799
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC36799
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Nanotechnology has enormous potential for social, economic benefits, from innovative medical techniques to savings on materials and energy, as well as advances in detection and remediation of pollution. However, with environmental impacts as yet largely unknown and public controls absent, more systematic research and sector specific policies are necessary. Most of the current public dialogue on nanotechnology concerns its potential application and impacts on human health. From a socio-economic perspective, it is anticipated that the growth of nanotechnology may have positive or negative effects on specific communities and countries that are commodity dependent. For example, reduced resource extraction may benefit the environment but cause economic downturn. This is not unique to nanotechnology, but is typical of all technological innovation. Recognizing that these areas are inextricably linked, this paper focuses primarily on relatively uncharted territory: the relationship between nanotechnology and the environment. Many new technologies pose challenges for the environment. Today, scientific knowledge of environmental processes is significant, as is general awareness of environmental issues. Policy makers, industry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and scientists need to work together to raise public awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with nanotechnology. They also need to inform the public on whether steps are being undertaken to assess the potential impacts of nanomaterials before they enter the marketplace – as opposed to reacting after such materials become widespread. Nanotechnology creates many new possibilities for social and economic development, both in the short and long terms. The enhanced capacities to monitor the environment, to increase energy efficiency, and reduce the impact of human activities on the environment are clear potential benefits of the dissemination of nanomaterials. To realise this potential, more, not less, nanoscience and nanotechnology are needed. A balanced approach is required to maximise benefits while minimising risks. In this regard, a cooperative effort, which is both international and multi-sectoral, is strongly encouraged.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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