DuPont and Environmental Defense today released a comprehensive framework to assist with the responsible development and use of nanotechnology and to help inform global dialogue on its potential risks. The Nano Risk Framework is intended for use around the world by small and large companies, regulatory agencies, universities, and others with an interest in commercializing nanoscale materials.
DuPont and Environmental Defense began a partnership on nanotechnology in September 2005, creating a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in science, engineering, law and business. The goal was to develop a systematic and disciplined process for evaluating and addressing the environmental, health and safety risks of nanomaterials across all stages of a product's lifecycle - from initial sourcing through manufacture, use, and recycling or disposal.
The resulting Framework offers a thorough and usable six-step process for organizations to identify, assess and manage potential risks. The six steps within the Framework include:
- describing the material and the intended application;
- profiling the material's lifecycle in this application;
- evaluating the associated risks;
- assessing risk management options;
- deciding and documenting actions; and,
- regularly reviewing new information and adapting actions accordingly.
"Nanotechnology has the potential to unleash innovations in materials, energy, and other fields that could lead to powerful environmental and health benefits," said Director of Corporate Partnerships at Environmental Defense Gwen Ruta. "Our intent is to help reap the full promise of this technology without creating unintended consequences. We want to get this right the first time around."
"This Framework outlines a disciplined process for the responsible development of nanomaterials," said DuPont Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Linda Fisher. "At DuPont, we have adopted this approach as a part of our mandatory product stewardship process, and we encourage others to do the same. While we do not see this Framework as a substitute for regulation, we hope that it assists governments in drafting appropriate regulations."
In developing the Framework, DuPont and Environmental Defense solicited and received significant feedback from a broad range of interested parties, including other companies and NGOs, government officials and academics. The Framework uses proven risk-management techniques in order to fully integrate with any current environmental, health and safety practices in place within companies. It also provides several new elements that can be instrumental in understanding the unique potential risks of nanomaterials, including: the recommendation to develop informational profiles (or "base sets") regarding the properties, hazards, and exposures associated with a given nanomaterial; and guidance on developing more detailed information on physical-chemical properties, ecotoxicity and environmental fate than has typically been used in existing risk management profiles.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness, flexibility and practicality of the Framework, DuPont conducted three demonstration projects on three different classes of nanoscale materials: a new titanium dioxide-based product, carbon nanotubes and zero valent iron.
"These projects were selected not only because they are of interest to DuPont, but also because they represent a good test of the Framework," said DuPont Global Regulatory Affairs Director Terry Medley. "Each represents a different position for DuPont in the value chain and is at a different stage of development. The projects required different resources, produced varying outcomes, and each demonstrated different aspects of the Framework." The three projects were:
- A new titanium dioxide-based product, called DuPont(TM) Light Stabilizer 210, which is designed as sun protection for plastics. An announcement about this product and its commercial availability will be made in the near future. Not all of the particles in this product fit the specific definition of nanomaterials, since a significant fraction is larger than the threshold 100 nanometer size. However, this material proved to be a good test of the Framework's methodology. The Framework helped DuPont develop a comprehensive exposure and hazard profile for this material prior to commercialization.
- Carbon nanotubes incorporated into polymer nanocomposites to improve mechanical and electrical properties of engineering thermoplastics. The company used the Framework to refine internal management procedures and to identify questions to be answered for such applications before they move from R&D toward commercialization.
- Nano zero valent iron, which DuPont was evaluating for potential use in groundwater remediation. Use of the Framework identified a number of questions regarding the physical safety, fate and transport of the material for this environmental application. DuPont chose not to pursue use of this material until these questions could be addressed.
Environmental Defense, a leading national non-profit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.
DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.