International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies
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International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard

As scientists and technologists discover how to engineer matter at the nanoscale in increasingly sophisticated ways, conventional approaches to ensuring safe use are being brought into question. Nanotechnologies are challenging traditional regulatory regimes; but they are also prompting new thinking on developing and using emerging technologies safely. In this Handbook, leading international authors from industry, government, non-governmental organisations and academia examine the complex and often controversial regulatory challenges presented by nanotechnologies. Across several disciplinary boundaries, they explore how the future regulatory landscape may evolve. From the Europe Union to the United States, workplaces to personal products, and statutory instruments through to softer approaches, it is clear that considerable vigilance will be needed in governing these powerful and novel technologies. To succeed, society will need new thinking, new partnerships and new mechanisms to balance the benefits of these technologies against their possible downsides. Anything less will prompt cries of illegitimacy and potentially compromise a promising new realm of technology innovation.
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Chapter 22: Risk Governance in the Field of Nanotechnologies: Core Challenges of an Integrative Approach

Ortwin Renn and Antje Grobe


Ortwin Renn and Antje Grobe 22.1 INTRODUCTION On the way towards sustainable and safe innovations in the field of nanotechnologies, society is faced with severe challenges posed by increased complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity that will accompany the diffusion of these new technologies onto the market. These typical side effects of today’s innovation processes manifest themselves, for example, in the large number and variety of applications in different industrial sectors with its required safety data – documented case-by-case on a set of different criteria for the risk assessment and risk management procedures (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), 2009; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 2009; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2009). This adds complexity to the issue. Other problems become visible in the still unresolved questions of a shared and pragmatic definition of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials among the various stakeholders and the related problems of how to apply specific risk assessment and risk management requirements without narrow thresholds (European Parliament, 2009a, 2009b). This increases the degree of uncertainty with respect to the potential impacts of nanotechnology applications. Safety data and the application of risk assessment are both closely connected to the different scientific heuristics which influence the process of how risk-related information is generated and determine the process of judgement – sometimes even leading to contradictory results based upon the same information. This process produces ambiguity as a function of controversial judgements about the same phenomena. These three aspects, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, lie...

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