Nanotechnology – consumers and standards

Nanotechnology is used in every sector you can think of, from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear, nanomaterials are present in scratch-resistant car bumpers, self-cleaning glass and anti-odour socks. Nanotech materials are being added to health and fitness products, from anti-ageing creams to skis. Silver is a powerful anti-microbial agent and more than 300 products use nanoscale silver to make anti-bacterial surfaces, clothing and even condoms. More information is available in a users guide to nanotechnology.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has stated: Nanotechnology is a revolutionary new technology and, potentially, a key economic driver for the twenty-first century.  Nanotechnology promises significant social benefits, including enhancements in medical diagnosis and treatment, more efficient energy sources, lighter, stronger and cheaper materials and electronic products and cleaner, cheaper water. On the other hand, the comparative lack of scientific knowledge on the impacts of nanomaterials has led to concern over the environmental, health and safety risks potentially associated with nanotechnology and its products.

Standards will play an important role in ensuring the full potential of nanotechnology is realised and the products are safety integrated into society.

Four catagories of standards are being developed internationally (ISO): terminology and nomenclature; measurement and characterisation; health, safety and environmental; and materials specification.
CFA representative Elaine Attwood is active on Standards Australia Technical Committee NT-001 Nanotechnology that is participating in the development of the international standards.  She is also on two ISO TC 229 Nanotechnology Task Groups – one on Sustainability and the other on Consumer and Societal Dimensions.