Risk Management and Nanoscale Materials; Adopting a Stewardship Standard
(Vice Chair – AIHA Nanotechnology Working Group)
Accepting risk is a prioritization process, one in which risks with the greatest potential for loss are put aside in favor of those that pose only a minimal chance of defeat. The skilled risk manager constantly monitors this and adjusts the campaign to balance risks against effort and benefit. If innovation involves concepts that have already realized success, familiarity can be utilized to advance marketability. If it is for something unknown, the approach must overcome a human tendency to avoid jeopardy. With nanotechnology advancement, these barriers can be slightly less formidable. This is primarily due to our acceptance of chemical development as an integral part of technology. Thus, we have come to routinely anticipate change. To accommodate our risk-averse nature, the public carefully balances change with a portfolio of protections, all designed to guard human health and the environment in which we live. These safeguards include a host of regulations that now govern the actions of all producers and chemical end users. Companies no longer have the freedom to introduce new products without first tempering their process through a myriad of health and safety considerations. By establishing tough regulatory oversight, we control the processing, marketing, transportation and disposal of nearly every chemical in existence. It is now incomprehensible to imagine that a company would develop and manufacture a new chemical, whether nanoscale or not, without first offering careful consideration to the toxicological impact and legal implications that may occur. While creation of nanoscale materials is a novel process, the risk management tools used to control outcomes is not. Like all advances in chemistry, risk is managed throughout the product life cycle. At the design phase, process safety considerations including control banding and chemical hygiene are applied to provide protection for the workforce. Once the processes are initiated; skilled organizations add education, exposure assessment, and monitoring to their arsenal of tools. Thereafter, we rely on product stewardship and corporate sustainability to move the process forward and assure public safety. Finally, a new tool has become available that allows us to conduct full-cycle risk analysis using analytical methods. This latter protocol, entitled Risk-MaPP, lays out a detailed description of each process and accounts for the risks associated with individual levels of exposure.