How harmful is technology to us

Risks of New TechnologiesHazards in the nano range

Research gives the all-clear for the time being

After many years of nanosafety research, the all-clear has now been cautiously given. “Even after several years of investigations, no completely new active principles of nanomaterials were found,” explains Walther Prinz, coordinator of the Prevention Field Measurement Service and Hazardous Substances at VBG. In the case of nanoparticles, the researchers assume that properties are similar to those of microparticles. “Just a lot stronger,” said Prinz.

However, it was also found that the tried and tested protective measures for handling dust are also effective in activities involving nanoparticles. However, some classes of substances, such as carbon nanotubes, are still under “increased observation, because they are believed to have carcinogenic properties due to their fibrous structure, see asbestos,” says Prinz. Based on these findings, state-of-the-art guidelines for handling nanoparticles have been published.

Working according to the precautionary principle

The risk assessment and handling are derived from this. “The precautionary principle applies. If certain harmful effects cannot be ruled out, companies should treat the material as a health hazard as a precaution, ”recommends Prinz. At least until new findings give the all-clear.

In development and research departments, high precautions are usually already in place. A laboratory equipped in accordance with the applicable technical rules already offers a high level of inherent safety. In everyday work in manufacturing companies, open risk communication often first has to be created, said Prinz.

Applied to the example of nanotechnology, this means: The employees must be informed in the instruction in the context of occupational medicine and toxicological advice if they are dealing with nanoparticles. Because the properties of nanoparticles are not fully known, it is all the more important to use existing protective measures.