Nanotechnology: Environmental Implications and Solutions , by Louis Theodore and Robert G. Kunz . Hoboken , NJ : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. , 2005 , 400 pp ., ISBN 0471699764 , $116.95 .

There is no question that environmental stewardship in the nanotechnology area is a challenging but vital task. The agenda includes identification of the major impacts associated with nanostructured materials and products, efforts to acquire and analyze data for quantitatively assessing risks, integration of existing tools and techniques with novel and practical ones to promote best management practices and support decision making, and facilitation of contributions from a broad group of researchers.

Currently, only a small portion (approximately 5%) of funding from the National Nanotechnology Initiative is being allocated to research related to environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of nanotechnology. Although there has been considerable progress in recent years toward identifying fate and transport, potential toxicity, risk, and health effects of nanoscale products, there is an ongoing need for reinforcing evidence (e.g., on human health impacts of nanoparticles and nanostructured materials), bridging existing information, and putting it in a sustainable development context.

With a full agenda and limited existing information, a book with the title Nanotechnology: Environmental Implications and Solutions sounds both promising and timely. Theodore and Kunz base their book on the idea that environmental problems associated with developments in the nanotechnology area are likely to be solved with technologies and tools that already exist to solve current environmental problems. For example, in Chapter 4—the title of which is “Water Issues”—the authors write: “It is anticipated that new emissions arising from nanoapplications will probably be managed initially by employing control technology as it exists today” (157).

In that respect, the vast majority of the book's contents consist of information related to current practices. Chapter 1 has a section in which the authors review current environmental regulations and comment on “how existing regulatory framework might be applied to the nanotechnology area” (37). The authors argue that applications of nanotechnology are most likely to be handled under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In the same section, the authors mention the premanufacturing notification requirement for firms handling new chemical substances. Under TSCA, firms that are planning to manufacture a substance that has not been listed in the TSCA chemicals list are required to submit premanufacturing notification reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This section opens up some interesting questions regarding the contents of these notifications, EPA's review procedure, and screening results of premanufacturing notification reports from firms that manufacture nanoparticles and nanostructured materials. According to the U.S. EPA's (2007)Nanotechnology White Paper, the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics is already reviewing these reports, which “serve as a gatekeeper to identify concerns and exercise appropriate regulatory oversight” (65).

Chapter 3 introduces air pollution control technologies (e.g., scrubbers, precipitators), factors affecting dispersion of releases to the air, atmospheric dispersion models, guidelines for designing stacks, and indoor air pollutants. Chapter 4 elucidates industrial and municipal wastewater characterization and treatment. After a general discussion of the history of wastewater treatment, the authors discuss types of pollutants, determination of wastewater composition, commonly applied treatment processes for industrial wastewater, wastewater characteristics, treatment plant design, and tertiary treatment processes for municipal wastewater.

Chapter 5 reviews solid waste management issues: landfilling and incineration of municipal solid waste; composition, sources, regulatory aspects, and management of biomedical waste; status, effects, and sources of nuclear waste; and metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic) in solid waste. In Chapter 6, the authors point out the need for a multimedia approach and for life cycle inventory analysis for assessment of environmental problems, and present three examples. Chapters 7 and 8 explain how chronic and acute exposures can be evaluated in a risk assessment context. Specifically, risk perception and communication, risk assessment steps, emergency planning, and implementation of a risk-based corrective action approach are introduced.

Chapter 2, contributed by Suzanne A. Shelly, is contextually different from the other chapters. It provides a general overview of the conceptual basis of nanotechnology, including the “nanoscale,” surface area–particle size relationship, classes of nanoparticles and nanostructured materials, their applications, and nanomanufacturing techniques. The author also touches on highly debated EHS aspects and ethical/societal implications of nanotechnology.

In general, the book would be most useful for an audience that is less familiar with waste treatment issues, regulations, and methods. The reference section is extensive, spanning a wide range of subjects. The book falls short of providing a detailed assessment of the progress to date (2005) and an understanding of the environmental implications of nanotechnology raised by many (e.g., see list of references in NNI 2006; Environmental Defense and Dupont 2007; and U.S. EPA 2007). Consequently, the discussion of air, water, solid waste issues, multimedia approaches, and risk assessment lacks depth of analysis. Also, the role life cycle assessment (LCA), green chemistry/manufacturing, and industrial ecology may play has not been thoroughly explored.


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