"Life-cycle assessment (LCA) of the health and environmental impact of nanotechnologies is essential for ensuring the safe, responsible and sustainable commercialisation of nanotechnology," concludes a report summarising the workshop discussions, held in October 2006, among international nanotech and LCA experts.
Published by the Project on emerging nanotechnologies, the report states that the main barriers for conducting life-cycle assessments in the nanotechnology field are the lack of data and understanding in certain areas.
"The lack of toxicity data specific to nano-materials is a repeating theme in this, and in other studies related to nanotech environmental, health, and safety concerns," said Andrew Maynard, chief scientist for the project.
Confidentiality is also referred to as a "major problem", as existing LCA data is often proprietary data of companies and "even the exact composition of nanomaterials is strictly confidential". According to the report, the challenge is to commit industry to share enough of its LCA data and, at the same time, to guarantee the confidentiality needs of companies.
"The report calls for international co-operation and co-ordination among governments, university researchers, corporations and consumers to help address critical data needs," said project visiting scientist Barbara Karn.