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Nanoremediation: Information for Decision Makers from NanoRem

Thematic Page 5 Risk Perception Issues



1. Aim

2. Introduction

3. Perceived Risk from the UK Perspective

4. NanoRem Activities

5.  Additional Resources on the NanoRem web site

6.  Feedback and Opinions



1 Aim

The aim of this page is to discuss the perceived risksassociated with the use of nanoremediation for contaminated land, and howNanoRem outputs can reduce this perceived risk. More detailed information aboutthese outputs is available from the NanoRem Tool Box (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/index.aspx#TB1).


2 Introduction

Perceived risks describe the subjective impression of risksthat might be held by particular individuals or groups of individuals.  When the NanoRem project began, nanoremediationwas seen by many stakeholders as a relatively recent technology with gaps inknowledge of both the technology and in the fate and transport of nanoparticlesin the environment.  There was also ageneral prevailing concern about the potential risks from NPs in theenvironment, and a limited availability of validated evidence from practicalnanoremediation use in the field.  Thesefactors made it likely that a higher burden of proof may be required byregulators prior to permitting nanoremediation based in situ remediationtechniques, compared with other in situ remediation techniques.  This cautious approach was also been adoptedby some major private sector corporations, perhaps reflecting a desire to avoidany adverse reputational impact. For example, the Du Pont Corporation havestated that they “would not consider using this [iron NP] technology at a DuPont site until the end products of the reactions following injection, orfollowing a spill, are determined and adequately assessed”. These early concerns are reviewed andreferenced in the initial risk-benefit appraisal on the use ofnanoremediation issued by NanoRem.  Thismay still be downloadedbut an updated and more final risk-benefit appraisal is available from DL9.2 “FinalExploitation Strategy, Risk Benefit Analysis and Standardisation Status” whichcan be downloaded from the NanoRem Tool Box (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/project-deliverables.aspx).


3 Perceived Risk from the UK Perspective

TheUK is a special case in Europe as it has a “voluntary moratorium” on the use ofnanoremediation, following on from recommendations in a 2004 report by theRoyal Society/ Royal Academy of Engineering (RS/RAE). Although there hasbeen no de facto prohibition of nanoremediation in the UK, themoratorium has acted as a barrier to the implementation of field trials.  More recently (2013) asynthesis of reports on public views on nanomaterials in general from the UK found that even though the majority ofthe population is not familiar with nanotechnology and nanomaterials, publicviews are largely positive towards developments in nanotechnologies andnanomaterials and their potential benefits, namely those with a clear socialbenefit such as in healthcare. However, it cautioned that there are majorunderlying public concerns about: 

  • Risk, safety and regulation linked to the level of uncertainty about toxicology, health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials.
  • Applications, equity, empowerment as the public consider trade-offs between potential benefits and risks of applications: applications that were perceived to contribute to a wider social good such as healthcare or environment were considerably more supported than cosmetics or other products with less clear social benefit.
  • Public engagement and transparency - more transparency about developments and more available information about products with nanomaterials are desired.

In July 2016 a NanoRem focus group held with industry,regulatory and scientific stakeholders concluded the following.  First, knowledge gaps exist and need to beaddressed. Second, nanoremediation is a site specific technology – there isneed to demonstrate in the UK in UK conditions and understand the performanceenvelope of the technology. Third, a need is manifest to clearly understand thehuman health risks. Fourth, what the fate and transport is of NPs needs to beunderstood and documented. Last not least, opportunities are seen in the UK fornanoremediation. Overall the regulators were not yet persuaded to relax themoratorium but were anxious to see the completed outcomes of the NanoRemproject, and expressed a willingness to support demonstration projects in theUK.  A detailed meeting report isavailable in Annex 2 of DL9.2 “FinalExploitation Strategy, Risk Benefit Analysis and Standardisation Status” whichcan be downloaded from the NanoRem Tool Box (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/project-deliverables.aspx).


4 NanoRem Activities

NanoRem has demonstrated and improved the market readinessof a number of NPs and provides a Tool Box (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/index.aspx)containing application guidance, safety datasheets and tools for them, makingavailable field scale deployment test outcomes in a series of independentlypeer reviewed technical bulletins. NanoRem also shown that nanoremediation canbe deployed in a targeted way and has substantive evidence that the ecologicalrisks of NP deployment in the subsurface have been greatly overstated. Indeed,the NanoRem project has developed a range of supporting deployment riskassessment and sustainability assessment tools to ensure that nanoremediationis safe, effective and sustainable, with a level of scrutiny that far exceedsthat which has been required for many of the subsurface amendments required toinitiate competitor technologies such as in situ bioremediation or in situchemical reduction using conventional reducing agents such as micro scale ironor sodium dithionite.

A bulletin on AppropriateUse of nanoremediation has been written to provide reassurance forstakeholders and includes a forward from the CommonForum (the EU regulatory network for contaminated land).  This can be downloaded from the NanoRem ToolBox (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/bulletin-shelf.aspx#TB1).


5 Additional resources on the NanoRem Web Site

Comprehensive resources are available from the NanoRem ToolBox, shown below (http://www.nanorem.eu/toolbox/index.aspx):







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Feedback and Opinions

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Taking Nanotechnological Remediation Processes from Lab Scale to End User Applications for the Restoration of a Clean Environment.
This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 309517
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