Press releases and Media Coverage
Nanotech study will address concerns about nanoparticle
The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering
study on nanotechnology will address concerns about
the safety of nanoparticles, Professor Ann Dowling,
the chair of the working group, said today (30 September
2003), as an update report outlining how the study will
progress was published. The study will also consider
other potential benefits and problems associated with
this emerging area of science.
Prof. Dowling announced that the working group would
consider nanoparticle safety in response to views expressed
by stakeholders at the start of the project. Over 80
stakeholders from academia, NGOs and industry responded
to the initial call for views - a chance for stakeholders
to highlight issues on which they believed the study
should focus. Almost every respondent that addressed
health and safety issues highlighted nanoparticles as
a potential area of concern. The confusion of science
fiction with science fact was also seen as a major issue
by stakeholders who stressed the importance of the study
separating the hype from the hypothetical with regard
The update report gives details of workshops the working
group plans to hold with stakeholders. The first workshop
with scientists and engineers working in nanotechnology
will take place today (30 September 2003). The meeting
aims to establish where research is now, where it could
be in 5 or 10 years time, and explore possibilities
for the use of nanotechnology further in the future.
A full report of the workshop will be available in November.
Prof. Dowling, said:
“Nanoscience and nanotechnology involve working
with matter at the atomic or molecular scale. It is
rare to define a research area in terms of a length
scale, and this definition is so broad that it brings
in a huge collection of disparate topics - including
most of chemistry. Indeed, developing a more appropriate
definition is one of the tasks for the working group.
Our workshop today with scientists and engineers aims
to distinguish between hype and real potential. We will
be exploring where research is today, how it might be
used in the future and the likely timescale for such
“Nearly every respondent to our call for views
who addressed health and safety issues highlighted the
inhalation of nanoparticles as a potential area for
concern. The air is already full of nanoparticles both
naturally occurring and man-made - indeed everyday incidents
like burning a piece of toast add to them. The study
will explore whether nanoparticles produced by new technology
have the potential to cause additional risks. This issue
will be examined in the meeting with scientists and
engineers today and at subsequent meetings with health
and safety and environmental experts. I also suspect
the issue will be raised by NGOs when we meet them in
October, and it is certainly something we’d like
to discuss with them.”
Other elements in the study include:
- A workshop with NGOs - This will take place on the
30 October 2003 and will involve the working group
consulting and discussing issues with NGOs. About
30 invited participants will be present at the workshop.
The working group will prepare questions and outline
issues they would like to discuss at the meeting and
the NGO participants will have the opportunity to
help set the meeting’s agenda.
- A public consultation - This research will begin
in October and will take approximately two months.
It will consist of in-depth workshops with members
of the public to explore their ideas about nanotechnology
and to identify and discuss any potential concerns
or questions they might raise. It will also include
a public survey with 1000-2000 people to establish
what level of awareness of nanotechnology there is
among members of the public. This will be followed
by a month-long web consultation.
Further meetings with health, safety and environmental
experts, and with regulators, are planned for the study.
More details of these will be provided later this year.
In addition, the working group will have the opportunity
to consider further written and oral evidence.
For further information, contact