Precaution in Practice

Perceptions, Procedures, and Performance in the Nanotech Industry


Address correspondence to:
Hans Kastenholz
Technology and Society Lab
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
CH-9014 St.Gallen, Switzerland


Voluntary initiatives by industry have been frequently proposed as one of the most promising ways to reduce potential negative impacts on human health and the environment from nanomaterials. In this study, we examined the industrial perceptions, internal procedures, and performance of the nanomaterial industry. We conducted a written survey of 40 companies in Switzerland and Germany. Most companies replied that nanoparticulate materials (NPMs) should be subject to some kind of regulation, but industry did not convey a clear opinion as to who should be responsible for managing the potential environmental health impacts or how to regulate NPMs throughout their life cycle. If NPM risks were to be identified, most of the companies surveyed do not have standardized procedures for changing production technology, substituting inputs, redesigning processes, or reformulating final products to reduce or eliminate risks of NPMs. However, a majority of the survey respondents found their existing routines regarding these procedures to be sufficient.