Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ICON Workshop 01-24-06 - Leixlip, Ireland

BELOW is the public information on the meeting

On January 24, 2006, ICON sponsored a workshop hosted at the Intel facility in Lexilip, Ireland. Intel is a founding member of ICON.

After a brief introduction to Intel’s role in nanoscience by Leonard Hobbs and a general introduction to ICON by director Vicki Colvin, Kristine Kulinowski introduced the audience to the ICON on-line database. In turn, Scott Walsh from Environmental Defense and an ICON member summarized ICON’s best practices initiative. The event moved to a series of presentations and panel discussions of some of the issues associated with the development and application of nanoscientific research into products.

The morning session involved four speakers.

Pilar Aguar from the EU’s Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Unit offered a European perspective on nanotechnology environmental health and safety (EHS) examining the 7th Framework Programme which comprises research from 2007 through 2013. While a preliminary, sometimes provisional, survey, she used the platform to extend an invitation for research designs bringing stakeholders into the Framework’s initiatives into the theme areas. While noting less than optimal budgets against many strategic agendas, she noted joint technology initiatives with industrial matching as part of the mix. Also covered were projects associated with EHS.

Raymond Oliver from Newcastle upon Tyne participated in the Royal society Report process summarizing and highlighting the report on the responsible development of nanotechnologies especially in terms of concerns and uncertainties. He did conclude that most nanotechnologies have no new risks to health, safety or the environment calling for cooperative inquiry between government, academia, industry, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Francis Quinn of L’Oreal Research, another founding method of ICON, offered his unique perspective of industrial developments in nanoscience. He discussed in detail how the instruments and techniques of nanoscience are employed productively in the cosmetics industry including the role nanosized titanium dioxide plays as a UV filter. He addressed the context of the debate over EHS summarizing some of the more radical media campaigns against all things nanosized debunking some of the more outrageous exaggerations and suggestions, including the productivity of labeling. Quinn recommends interacting with regulators and other stakeholders cooperatively with colleagues in the field from industrial and other groups.

Hideki Murayama from Frontier Carbon Corporation, another ICON member, covered Japan’s voluntary program over EHS. With over 500 companies and extensive interest in the nanofield in Japan, the country has begun to address a variety of social impact issues and an AIST roadmap for risk analysis. He highlighted concerns over the life cycle of certain nanoparticles and how they are being addressed at Frontier, such as a series of toxicity testing protocols and treating the production process for carbon fullerenes as a closed system to reduce exposure values.

In the afternoon session, there was a panel discussion. Each panelist was asked to speak for five minutes before the audience was queried for questions by the moderator, Kristen Kulinowski.

Chris Snary from Defra (UK) established the need for transparency and evidence building as foundational to public engagement.

Jim Alwood from the US EPA introduced the proposal voluntary pilot program and underscored the need for life cycle analysis of nanoparticles.

He was followed by Chris Bunting of the International Risk Governance Council spoke about the IRGC’s proposed risk management framework to reduce governance gaps.

Next we heard from Masahiro Takemura from Japan’s NIMS who introduced the group to a new national program under the new Ministry for Health, Labor and Welfare for the development of evaluation methods of health impacts of nanomaterials and the newly created ministry of the environment as well as international collaborative efforts involving the Science Council of Japan.

Intel’s Steven Brown covered the standardization work associated with ASTM highlighting some of the justifications and rationales associated with nomenclature and characterization.

Alexis Vlandas from St. Cross College represented Scientists for Global Responsibility, an NGO composed of scientists. He cautioned that his presentation offered a hopeful view of nanotechnology development compared to some others NGOS. In turn, he stressed stakeholder outreach emphasizing the popular knowledge in a modified upstream engagement model.

The final speaker before direct questioning from the audience was Sonia Maria Dalcomuni, director of law from the Universidad Federal do Espirito in Brazil. She discussed the convergence issues likely to provoke paradigmatic changes in society while making a case for international governance for sustainable development and caution at the intersection of nanoscience and weapons research.

During the discussion involving all seven panelists, questions were varied. Annabelle Hett from Swiss RE demanded a progress reports on the risk management and public engagement commenting on the depth of the Japanese initiatives and found the panel unable to timeline a response though both Dalcomuni and Brown suggested we are still taking early and hesitant steps in the right direction. A roadmap notwithstanding, the West is awaiting the commitment of resources and more data. Bunting added there has been some movement toward international cooperation involving the US State Department. Alwood added the OECD as a new player. Bunting added the disincentive associated with the economic nationalism of nanoresearch. Takemura contextualized the discussion noting participation by scientific elites in Japan remains a challenge. Kulinowski decided to ask about the viability of a voluntary regulatory formula. Bunting spoke about it favorably with some reservations about trustworthiness and effectiveness. Snary added that a voluntary program might be inevitable seeing very little choice else wise. Communication challenges were noted and Kulinowski referenced some jury work in the UK before summarizing the panel’s conclusions.

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