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Southeastern Announces National Conference in June on Safe Nanomaterial Use in Environmental Remediation

An increasing number of hazardous waste disposal sites are using nanotechnology and nanomaterials in their environmental remediation efforts, leaving open questions about the safety of such techniques.

An inaugural national workshop will be held at Southeastern Louisiana University June 5-7 to try to provide some answers to the questions and concerns on the safe use of nanomaterials in environmental remediation.

Nanomaterials are tiny engineered particles, often smaller than the width of a human air, that are being synthesized and formed to perform specific functions in medicine delivery, pharmacology, industry and environmental remediation.

"While applications and results of nano-enabled strategies for environmental remediation are promising, there is still the challenge of ensuring such applications are both safe and sustainable," said conference organizer Ephraim Massawe. "The federal government has established different projects coordinated by different agencies, called signature initiatives. We plan on generating information supportive of some of these federal initiatives."

The event, "Nano-4_Rem_Anseers2013: Applications of Nanotechnolgoy for Safe and Sustainable Environmental Remediations," is a cooperative endeavor involving the university and agencies and institutions, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Louisiana Board of Regents is providing partial financial support.

Four keynote speakers are slated to address the three-day conference, which will be held on the Southeastern campus. Speakers and topics include:

  • Patrick O'Shaughnessy, professor of occupational and environmental health in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, "Nanosafety: Current Issues and Guidance;"
  • Dongye Zhao, Huff endowed professor of environmental engineering at Auburn University: "Application of Stabilized Nanoparticles for in situ Remediation of Contaminated Soil and Groundwater;"
  • Souhail Al-Abed of the EPA Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati: "Nanotechnology and the Environment: an Overview of Sustainable and Safe Applications in Site Remediation."

In addition, a representative of the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office will speak at the workshop.

The program is intended for representatives of the environmental remediation community, nanomaterial vendors, consultants and contractors, academics, industry, health and safety regulatory agencies, and state and federal government agencies. Exhibitors will include companies showcasing instruments, equipment and new technologies used in environmental remediation and nanomaterial monitoring.

Additional details on the program and registration information can be found on the conference website:

Massawe said at least 30 EPA Superfund sites across the nation are currently using nanomaterials in remediation operations.

"Nanotechnology per se began about 40 years ago, but it is slowly finding applications in environmental clean-up operations. And, because of the infancy of nanotechnology science in this area, little is known about the fate and transportation of these materials or their human health impact and toxicity and the overall impact on the environment and public health," said Massawe, an assistant professor of occupational safety, health and environment. "Some recent animal studies suggest some nanomaterials could be linked to lung diseases, cancers, brain tumors and pregnancy complications. There is a definite need to bring together scientists, industry and other stakeholders to discuss safe and sustainable handling practices of nanomaterials during environmental remediation and, by extension, other applications of nanotechnology."

Massawe said the workshop will help develop best practices that will protect public health and workers while developing the nanotechnology industry of the future.

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