DuPont and Environmental Defense to Address Nanotech Risks

Washington, USA – The Nano Risk Framework, jointly developed by DuPont and Environmental Defense, is a new framework intended to help businesses, governments and the public at large evaluate and discuss the potential risks from nano-scale materials.

The result of a partnership that began in September 2005, the Nano Risk Framework was developed as a systematic process for evaluating and addressing the environmental, health and safety risks of nanomaterials across all stages of a product’s lifecycle – from initial sourcing through manufacture, use, and recycling or disposal.

Included in the process described by the Framework are six steps:
  • describing the material and the intended application;
  • profiling the material’s lifecycle in this application;
  • evaluating the associated risks;
  • assessing risk management options;
  • deciding and documenting actions; and
  • regularly reviewing new information and adapting actions accordingly.
“Nanotechnology has the potential to unleash innovations in materials, energy, and other fields that could lead to powerful environmental and health benefits,” said Gwen Ruta, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Environmental Defense. “Our intent is to help reap the full promise of this technology without creating unintended consequences. We want to get this right the first time around.”

Linda Fisher, DuPont’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said the framework was not a substitute for regulation, DuPont hopes that it helps governments around the world develop effective regulations. She added that this six-step framework has already become part of the company’s mandatory product stewardship process.

As part of the evaluation process for the framework, DuPont tested three different classes of nanoscale materials: a new titanium dioxide-based product, carbon nanotubes and zero valent iron.

“These projects were selected not only because they are of interest to DuPont, but also because they represent a good test of the Framework,” said DuPont Global Regulatory Affairs Director Terry Medley. “Each represents a different position for DuPont in the value chain and is at a different stage of development. The projects required different resources, produced varying outcomes, and each demonstrated different aspects of the Framework.”

The titanium dioxide-based product tested by the company, called Light Stabilizer 210, is designed as sun protection for plastics. Using the framework, DuPont said it was able to develop a comprehensive exposure and hazard profile for this material prior to putting it on the market.

The carbon nanotubes studied were incorporated into polymer nanocomposites to improve mechanical and electrical properties of engineering thermoplastics. DuPont used the Framework to refine internal management procedures and to identify questions to be answered for applications using these nanotubes before they move from R&D toward commercialization.

And for the nanoscale zero valent iron, which DuPont evaluated as a potential resource for remediated groundwater supplies, the framework raised a number of questions regarding the physical safety, fate and transport of the material for this environmental application, and eventually led to shelving this product until the concerns could be resolved.

DuPont and Environmental Defense have launched a new website to accompany the framework. At, the project is available for download, as well as detailed case studies of the three nanoscale materials tested by DuPont for this release.

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