Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ON NANOTECHNOLOGY: The Plastics of the 21st Century? - NOT RECOMMENDED

Robert Blaunstein, NANOTECHNOLOGY: The Plastics of the 21st Century? Guy Carpenter & Co., Inc., 2006 - NOT RECOMMENDED even though I agree with most of it.

This piece discusses nanotechnology from the perspective of insurers.

It mentions covers including product liability, workers compensation, professional liability, and general liability, but it does not detail these.

It warns fear of liability could threat global development though it does not unbundle the claim to make an argument. It mentions coverage will evolve through three steps (1) nanomaterials will be studied, (2) knowledge will grow, and (3) customized covers will be developed and while offering an anecdote involving customized cover for travel and commercial transportation, the customization is underdeveloped.

The piece adds the claim: "there is a definite possibility that the fear stage (referred interchangeable as a phase and not associated directly with step 2 above) will result in some withdrawal by insurers and reinsurers from nanotechnology covers." While an interesting claim, it would have helped to have deeper analysis of the dynamics that might be involved.

Under the proviso of a private market failure, it mentions pools as a option (see Mannina) and liability caps using a formulae like was used under Price Anderson (an argument I made in the December 2006 issues of Nanotechnology Law and Business Journal) though I argue they can work within the quasi-private market as an alternative to heavy handed regulation.

I plan on writing more about nanotechnology, risks, and liability. It all started with bill Joy's article of repute "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" (Wired)

I suggest if you are interested, read George Mannina on the subject of pools - and Albert Lin on the subject of bonds in Size matters: Regulating Nanotechnology and me on the subject of liability caps “Regulating Nanoscience: A Proposal and a Response to J. C. Davies,” Nanotechnology Law and Business Review, December 2006, 485-506.

Finally, I think the simile between nanotechnology and plastics may be one of the most defensible out there and had hoped it would have been developed, but it wasn't. Unfortunately for all, since we may learn a lot about things nano if we think of it as the next plastics!

ON Know Your nano! TASwiss - RECOMMENDED

Center for Technology Assessment, TA Swiss, Know Your Nano! publifocus Nanotechnology, Health and the Environment,, 2006 - RECOMMENDED

This document was created by Herbert Cerutti (a science journalist) to support a public outreach project called "publifocus". More on that below and later.

It is a nice introduction to nanoscience and is good enough to pass on to novitiates. I especially liked the illustration of the often confusing "a size decreases surface area increases" issue (p. 4), something the public has had some difficulty getting. The section entitled "From Window Panes to a Cure for Cancer" is also very well written and accessible though I would have refrained from mentioning "science fiction pizzas" (p. 7).

There are a few errors and over/incorrect claims. For example, Magic Nano did not deliver a sealant residue only a few nanometers thin; it failed altogether (p. 1). Once again we get overclaims based on the E. Oberdorster fish study (p. 8) and too much discussion of what is possible and not enough about what is plausible (p. 9).

Then there are some questionable rhetorical tactics such as the race metaphor (p. 3) which does no one much good. This document is not solely guilty of this tactic. Witness the current spate of China bashing going on. There's the asbestos metaphor as well (p. 9). While hardly damning it is probably not a good idea of referring to non-soluble nanoparticles as a "particular headache" in the same document when referencing blood-brain barrier translocation (another study that needs replication).

Then there are incomplete remarks that raise hackles such as a remark that a Swedish researcher confesses to receiving EUR 1.7 million for a project that was not nano per se. This needs to be discussed more openly and if anyone has more information send it my way.

Publifocus involves discussion with 15 people on various aspects of nanoscience. They are professionally moderated and last fours hours. The aforementioned brochure is supplied and presumably read. The meeting includes a short presentation. Minutes are taken. The meeting produced no recommendations. The brochure claims they "give concrete indications of areas where future action might be necessary" though who distills what from this process remains unclear. This experiment is no to me and I will try to stay on top of it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A NEW Blog - Live Wire Newsletter

I wanted to direct your attention to this blog - I am participating with some colleagues in comments and hope the readers enjoy it.

Berube resigns as ICON Com Director

I resigned as ICON Com Director. The position was never designed to be a permanent one. I am no longer paid by ICON though I will remain on their steering committee and may participate in projects which interest me. If you are searching for some scuttlebutt, you would be wasting your time. I am still friends with all of the folks in the project.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Review of NEHI Public Meeting 01/04/07

Public Meeting on Research Needs Related to the Environmental Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanoscale Materials, Jnauary 4, 2007

FDIC Auditorium, Arlington VA

The first six speakers summarized the 6 chapters in the NEHI document. See my summary for more.

In general, this was theatrical rather than informative.

Norris Alderson, Chair NEHI
Indicated the panel wanted feedback on research areas in the NEHI Report, esp. as it related to prioritization of research areas.
Indicated some guidance may be needed on how evaluation can be ongoing.
Noted need for greater investments
to learn more about interaction with biosystems
for metrology for characterization.
Indicated criteria for prioritization may include
value of information
leveraging international and private sector participation
adaptive management…
Next step – perform a gap analysis.

Dianne Poster, NIST
Emphasizes needs in measurement and characterization.
Emphasized needs in termination and nomenclature.
Reiterated need for criteria in setting priorities.

Sally Tinkle, NIEHS
General call for predictive modeling.

Phil Sayer, EPA
Offered criteria for prioritization
as manufactured
as modified in the environment
as endpoints.

Vladimir Murashov, NIOSH
Offered a traditional summary of surveillance.

Richard Canady, FDA
Offered standard fare on risk management.

Peter Linquiti, ICF
Referenced to article co-authored with Adam Teepe.
Mentioned orphan risk issues but did not itemize any.
Discussed trends toward voluntary partnerships.
Referenced corp. responsibility for EHS research and compared US model to REACH.
Mentioned the new for predictive toxicology.

Eric Landree, RAND
Referred to article co-authored with Bartis (Nanomaterials in the Workplace).
Restricted comments to occupational risk assessment.

Paul Ziegler, ACC
Presented general support for NEHI document and said there would be a written submission.
Referred to ICF presentation and supported their approach.
Mentioned need for research on fate of nanomaterials and green manufacturing.
Added there was an urgent need for increased EHS funding.

Valdimir Murashov, IOS
Reviewed recommendations for standards


Andrew Maynard, WWC
Mentioned need for purposely risk research and mentioned it was not rocket science.
As starting points, he mentioned:
Inventory of products (WWC)
Inventory of current research (WWC)
Mentioned the NATURE paper he co-authored and the report (see summary) he authored for WWC.

Bettye Maddux (Oregon ONAMI)
Commented on a need to adopt green nano by design.
Discussed ONAMI agenda.

Rama Venkatasubramanian (RTI International)
Discussed approached for sub-nano calorimetry.
Claimed tethering nanoparticles would reduce toxicity.


Sean Murdoch (NbA)
Questioned who natural and incidentally produced nanoparticles should be excluded from study.
Mentioned concerns related to gap analysis
Extent of expected use.
Exposure potential.
Dependencies and inter-relationships.

David Berube (USC NanoCenter)
Discussed how public intuits toxicology and data is insufficient for outreach.
Added risk communication is not for amateurs.
Explained why nano requires a different risk communication strategy.
Current throughput involves new media.
Nano is not one industry, need a band approach.

Jo Anne Shatkin (Cadmus)
Mentioned need for life cycle analysis.
Asked if there was anything nano-specific in risk analysis.
Mentioned Cadmus & Society for Risk Analysis has a new nanorisk subdiscipline.

George Kimbrell (ICTA)
Claimed there were no priorities in the NEHI document and it was a laundry list.
Discussed some priorities for ESH research:
PPE research.
Skin penetration.
Silver Nano…


Jim Willis (EPA)
Discussed Chemical Committee of OECD and reviewed findings of six steering groups (see

Two citizens followed – the first of whom reviewed findings of Madison WI Consensus Conference and the second reviewed some concerns associated with thinking within the box versus a new paradigm for studying things nano.

David Berube (ICON)
Presented statement on upcoming ICON NanoESH Research Needs Assessment meetings - see ICON website.

Tof Carim, DOE
Discussed the breadth of research categories.
Called for criteria for prioritization.
Called for suggestions for prioritization.
Called for any additional comments.