Nanotechnology—Life-Cycle Risk Management
Scientists, risk practitioners, and regulators have debated the need to be proactive in assessing the potential health and environmental risks and benefits of unregulated nano-scale technologies. Many nanotech-based products and applications are already in use or development. Application of a proactive risk-based approach that considers the life cycle of the product, rather than a precautionary principle approach that would likely restrict the progress and advance of nanoscience, will be useful in helping to assess the unknown and unpredictable risks associated with nano-products, nanotoxicity, and nanopollution. This article summarizes what is currently known regarding the potential toxicity and hazards of nanomaterials. A life-cycle perspective is used to identify important areas for further consideration and research. A conceptual framework is proposed for linking the strategies of life cycle and risk analysis within the same toolbox. This approach allows for prevention and treatment of a material's life-cycle risks, which can be considered in an integrated manner, thereby promoting continuous improvement, proactive risk reduction, and a flexible and adaptive approach to evaluating nanotechnology without stifling innovation.