Publication Safe handling of nanotechnology

In 2006, a group of scientists proposed five grand challenges to support the safe development and handling of nanotechnology. Ten years on, in an article published this week in Nature Nanotechnology, Andrew Maynard (Director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University) and Robert Aitken (Director of SAFENANO and Chief Executive of the Institute of Occupational Medicine, IOM) – two of the original authors – look at where we have come, and where we still need to go.


In the article, Maynard and Aitken provide a personal assessment of progress made toward addressing each of the original five grand challenges, namely:

  • instruments to assess exposure to engineered nanomaterials in air and water
  • methods to evaluate the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials
  • models for predicting the potential impact of engineered nanomaterials on the environment and human health
  • systems for evaluating the health and environmental impact of engineered nanomaterials over their entire life
  • the need for strategic programmes that enable relevant risk-focused research


Whilst there are indications of substantial progress in some areas and a lot that has been learned over the last decade, the authors highlight critical shortfalls in other areas that potentially limit the safe development and beneficial uses of nanotechnology. The remaining challenges are not nano-specific per se, they say, but represent a materials challenge more broadly.


Original publication:

Maynard A.D., Aitken R.J. (2016). 'Safe handling of nanotechnology' ten years on. Nat Nanotechnol, 11(12): 998-1000.




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