Nanoparticles: Examining the Science, Determining the Risk, Considering Public Health

May 29, 2014
10:00 am US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Speaker presentation slides:

Dr. Sass: The Policy and Politics of Nanomaterials - Download the PDF

Additional resources of interest:

Precarious Promise: A Case Study of Engineered Carbon Nanotubes, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production - Read the report

Listen to Recording

Nanoparticles are already in consumer products, including food packaging, clothing, electronic devices, cookware and even some food. Many have never undergone rigorous safety testing for potential impacts on human health. The emerging research indicating nanoparticle exposure may lead to potential health risks in some cases suggests that precautionary and regulatory measures are a priority. In November 2013 the National Defense Resources Council filed and won a lawsuit to limit the use of nanosilver—a potent antimicrobial nano-pesticide--in clothing. But what about other nanoparticles in use in other consumer products? On this call our speakers discussed the current science and potential health risks related to nanoparticles, how nanoparticles interact with the environment and living systems, and what policy opportunities currently exist to ensure public health is protected.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Vicki L. Colvin is the Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Professor of Materials Science and Nanomaterials Engineering at Rice University. Professor Colvin’s research explores how nanoscale particles interact with the environment and living systems. Her research draws on both synthetic chemistry for the preparation and control of novel nanophase systems as well as physical chemistry for the investigation of their unusual behavior. Currently her projects draw on the unique and responsive behavior of nanoparticles to solve problems related to water purification and targeted cell death.

Dr. Andrew Maynard is the NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He also directs of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center. Dr. Maynard is a leading expert on the responsible development and use of emerging technologies, and on innovative approaches to addressing emergent risks. He has testified before congressional committees on nanotechnology on a number of occasions, has served on National Academy panels and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies. Widely published in the academic literature, Dr. Maynard is also a well-known science communicator.  He teaches graduate courses on risk assessment, science communication, environmental health policy, professional development and entrepreneurial ethics, and lectures widely on technology innovation and responsible development. Dr. Maynard’s current focuses include exploring how integrative approaches to risk can support sustainable development in an increasingly complex, interconnected and resource-constrained world; and raising the bar on risk communication and evidence-informed yet socially-responsive decision making.

Dr. Jennifer Sass is a Senior Scientist in the Health and Environment program of the NRDC, an environmental non-profit organization, and a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. She is an expert in US chemical policy and regulations. Dr. Sass has degrees in Anatomy and Cell Biology from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and Toxicology from the University of Maryland. In her work with NRDC she reviews the science underpinning the regulation of toxic chemicals, and advocates for health-protective regulations consistent with the environmental laws. Dr. Sass publishes in peer-reviewed journals on the regulation of toxic chemicals and emerging contaminants such as nanomaterials. She provides testimony and scientific briefings for the U.S. Congress and regularly participates in stakeholder and expert scientific federal advisory committees.

The call was moderated by Steve Heilig, Director of Public Health and Education at the San Francisco Medical Society and at CHE.