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What's New?

The NANO2ALL citizen and multi-stakeholder dialogues have taken place in France, Israel, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden in 2017 and 2018.

Read more about these events here.

NANO2ALL will organise a session dedicated to science journalists and communicators.

Read more about this conference here.

About this webspace

This webspace is dedicated to Media, including media groups, journalists and communicators, whose activity involves the provision of an objective coverage of the applications of nanotechnologies and their potential risks and benefits.

NANO2ALL provides you the opportunity to be part of a nanotechnology dialogue involving diverse societal groups, hear about their needs, values and expectations concerning the use of nanotechnologies and the risks and benefits arising from it.

Don't forget to check out the training materials on Nanotechnology and RRI: Nano2All Webinars; NanoDiode; NanOpinion; RRI-Tools; and much more!

Nano & societal impact

Engineered nanoparticles are used in a variety of industrial materials, such as ceramics and advanced polymers. Also, they are commonly used in the production of household materials, cosmetics and textiles. Generally speaking, nanoparticles are considered a pollutant risk if they are able to accumulate in the environment (even though, according to some recent research, nanoparticles might even have beneficial effects for biological organisms). Besides that, they are regarded to as health risks for consumers and at the workplace. Health risks can concern Immunology, Neurology, Gentox, Allergenicity and other domains.

When dealing with possible risk, hazardous properties must be analyzed on the on hand and actual exposure on the other. There are several reasons which suggest that nanomaterials could conceal risks:

  • The special (physical-chemical) properties of a nanomaterial, e.g. large, highly reactive (reaction-promoting) surfaces;
  • Special behaviour inside the body, e.g. a long retention time and the overcoming of natural biological barriers;
  • The increased contamination that is to be expected by their release.

For further information:

The Online-Science Magazine The Conversation provides an overview on recent discussion about questions of risk and risk assessment related to nanomaterials. See also: S. Dekkers et al.’s journal article, “Towards a nanospecific approach for risk assessment”, published in Regulatory Toxikology and Pharmacology. German readers might have a look at the University St. Gallen’s report “Wie können Versicherer mit Nano-Risiken umgehen?“

Older works include:

- Bericht des Ausschusses für Bildung, Forschung und Technikfolgenabschätzung des Deutschen Bundestages. Drucksache 15/2713 [German only] (2004) 

- OECD/Allianz: Opportunies and risks of Nanotechnolgies (2005) 

- Swiss Re: Nanotechnology. Small matter, many unknowns (2004) 

- (2006-2011)


Institutions and professional bodies from different areas are concerned with the assessment of risks associated with nanotechnology:

a) Government

     Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Germany

     EFSA Scientific Network of Risk Assessment of Nanotechnologies in Food and Feed


     UBA (Umweltbundesamt), Germany

b) Science

     HSPH-Niehs Nanosafety Center

  • The Center brings together scientists from across disciplines (material science, chemistry, exposure assessment, risk assessment, nanotoxicology and nanobiology) to assess the potential Environmental Health and safety (EHS) implications of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). The Center unites researchers from Harvard University, the MIT, the University of Maine and the University of Florida.


  • Academic journal focusing on research relating to the potential for human and environmental exposure, hazard and risk associated with the use and development of nano-structured materials.


  • Multidisciplinary journal focusing on nanosafety research and areas related to the impacts of manufactured nanomaterials on human and environmental systems and the behavior of nanomaterials in these systems.

c) Industry


  • Established as a Centre of Excellence in Nanosafety in 2006 at the UK’s Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), SAFENANO provides industry, academia and governments with independent authoritative expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to enable effective risk management.


Other impacts result from the specific use-cases of products based on nanomaterials. Three examples:

a) Smart Textiles

  • One field of application for nanomaterials is ‘smart textiles’ – textiles designed for the use of wearable computing, especially in the field of health-services, but also for other purposes. Reinforced silk, for instance, produced by the silkworms fed with graphene or carbon nanotubes, could be used in applications such as durable protective fabrics, biodegradable medical implants, and ecofriendly wearable electronics. Smart textiles have implications both for privacy and for public health.
  • Privacy is concerned, because smart textiles facilitate the transmission of personal data and information. (“Pervasive” or “ubiquitous” computing is the general area of concern here.)
  • Public health is an issue insofar as health monitoring (which includes the storage and analysis of medical data harvested with the help of smart textiles) can be used for the design of insurance and treatment programs. Those programs are of public concern because they often go along with shifting burden and benefits from one group of patients to another.

b) Robotics

  • Another area, where nanomaterials are frequently employed, is robotics. Such use comprises “bio-bots” (powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical impulses), robots with artificial skin, or underwater robots mimicking ocean life – to mention just a few examples. For further information, see for instance, the news section at Nanowerk for recent research in the field of nanorobotics.
  • Robotics poses ethical challenges in areas such as algorithm ethics and the ethics of Artificial Intelligence. One often-discussed question, for example, is whether or not robots a ban of ‘killer robots’ is suitable and possible. Broader issues concern general problems of algorithmic decision-making and algorithmic accountability, social implication of disruptive technologies or the potential of AI.

c) Biofuels

  • Nanomaterials are of particular interest for the design of biofuels. One example for the role of nanotechnology is the growing of microalgae to aid in the production of biofuels. Biofuels bear various social, economic, environmental and technical issues. These issues include effects on the price of energy and oil, the “food vs fuel” debate, carbon emission levels, impacts on biodiversity, and many others.

NANO2ALL flyer for Media

Responsible Research and Innovation: aligning R&I with European society

What does open access in RRI mean?

The Nano2All project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, under the Grant Agreement Number 685931.
This website reflects only the author's view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.


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