Colloquium Date: Monday, March 8, 2010
A bi-weekly event to present and discuss issues related to developments, applications and commercialization of nanotechnology.
“Current Practices and Perceived Risks Related to Health, Safety and Environmental Stewardship in Nanomaterials Industries ”
Cassandra Engeman, PhD
Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology
University of California - Santa Barbara
Contributors: L. Baumgartner, B. Carr, A. Fish, J. Meyerhofer, P. Holden, B. Harthorn
(VIDEO CONFERENCED FROM SANTA BARBARA, CA)
Environmental health and safety (EHS) and product stewardship practices specific
to engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are still being developed. Without regulation,
ENM industries may act independently to avoid risks with managers risk perceptions
playing an influential role in industry practices. In 2006, an interdisciplinary
team at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB), with support from the
International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON), surveyed ENM industries worldwide
regarding workplace and environmental practices, product stewardship, and views on
risks. Surveying industry three years later, this project aims to understand what
steps ENM firms--producers and users of ENMs--are currently taking to protect workers,
consumers, and the environment.
- In the context of absent regulation and indeterminant standards, how is industry
adapting their practices for the safe development of nanomaterials?
- What determines the extent to which ENM firms follow publically-available guidance
documents on nano-specific health and safety practices?
This research applies a survey instrument developed through collaboration between
social and natural science researchers. Researchers elicited responses from an international
pool of industry participants for a cross-national comparative analysis. Our research
investigates the role that environmental and health risk perceptions play in management
practices in the context of uncertainty. Firm characteristics, company location, the cost
of EHS programs, and access to information also shape practices, but respondents who report
higher levels of perceived risk are more likely to report industry EHS practices that follow
publically available guidance documents or respond to toxicity research findings.
For more information, visit the research project's website:
To participate in the study online, go to:
Cassandra Engeman is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the
University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB). Her research areas include: research
methodology, the study of work, organizations, and public policy. As a Project
Coordinator at the Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, Cassandra
contributes her knowledge of social science research methods and analysis in
designing the project on Current Practices and Perceived Risks Related to Health,
Safety and Environmental Stewardship in Nanomaterials Industries. She recently
presented preliminary results from this study as an invited speaker at the Nano
Tech 2010 Exhibition and Conference in Tokyo.
Lynn Baumgartner, Benjamin Carr, Allison Fish, and John Meyerhofer are Masters
students at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University
of California-Santa Barbara. From diverse backgrounds within the field of environmental
science, this research team contributes its knowledge of the forms and characteristics
of nanomaterials and current recommended practices with regard to handling nanomaterials.
The project, Current Practices and Perceived Risks Related to Health, Safety and
Environmental Stewardship in Nanomaterials Industries, serves as their Masters
thesis, and they are graduating this June.