Environmental, health, and safety issues are a top priority for nanotech now, as reflected in presentations at the NNI at Ten event in DC last week. Now, we can review and comment at www.nano.gov the draft “National Nanotechnology Initiative 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Strategy,” which is only 106 pages.
I could not help but connect this with recent media coverage about air quality, including small particulates, in Western Pennsylvania. In that coverage, the quote “Our particles aren’t as bad as your particles” comes from and reflects the comparison between relative harm for particles emitted from coal-fired power plants and vehicular exhaust.
Particular (no pun intended) issues stem from particles less than 2.5 microns which covers the nanodomain (they are called PM2.5). The EPA webpage refers to studies from the 1990′s about these tiny particles.
So hopefully the NNI EHS document builds on what is already known about particles in the air from cars and coal. The PM2.5 are not nanoengineered per se but in figuring out what to do with nano-EHS, one should not ignore PM2.5. Gritty public health and economic issues apply to both.