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Nanomaterials in the workplace - Risk perception on nanomaterials

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EU-OSHA. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

The huge scope, novelty, excitement about promised benefits coupled with the uncertainty and low current level of understanding in a rapidly changing scientific field poses significant challenges for risk communication on ENM to workplaces.
• Risk communication strategies need to handle these uncertainties and to be able to adapt to facilitate reframing and redefining of the issues as they change with the emergence of new ENM and scientific knowledge.
• Because there is as yet no outright rejection of nanotechnology, policy- makers have the opportunity to define how to frame communication on ENM to promote a sensible risk management. Once this frame has been found it needs to be used consistently among stakeholders.
• In order to ensure long-term success of risk communication initiatives to workplaces, these should inform decisions that employers make about workplaces and support them in implementing adequate prevention measures; and empower individual workers to exert personal control over their own situations and environments

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Nanomaterials in the workplace - Risk perception on nanomaterials

  1. 1. Nanomaterials in the workplace -Risk perception and risk communicationBased on a literature review by: Rosemary Gibson, Nicola Stacey and Roxanne Gervais(HSL, UK), Hakan Wallin (NRCWE, DK), Eric Drais (INRS, FR), Wojciech Zatorski(CIOP-PIB, PL)Available at: http://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/literature_reviews/risk-perception-and-risk-communication-with-regard-to-nanomaterials-in-the-workplace/viewSafety and health at work is everyone‟s concern. It‟s good for you. It‟s good for business.
  2. 2. What are nanomaterials?Commission Recommendation of 18 October 2011 on the definition ofNanomaterial (2011/696/EU) [1]"Nanomaterial" means:• a natural, incidental or manufactured material• containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate• and where, for 50 % or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm. In specific cases […] the number size distribution threshold of 50 % may be replaced by a threshold between 1 and 50 %. By derogation […], fullerenes, graphene flakes and single wall carbon nanotubes with one or more external dimensions below 1 nm should be considered as nanomaterials. http://osha.europa.eu 2
  3. 3. Novel properties, benefits… and risks? • Engineered nanomaterials (ENM) have different physico- chemical properties than the same materials at the macro-scale As the particle size decreases, the surface area per unit mass increases, with more atoms on the surface, hence an increased surface reactivity and new properties • The properties of ENM can offer a wealth of benefits to society Novel medicines that target the site of disease or infection; new environmental techniques to bring clean water to underdeveloped countries; to reduce the carbon footprint and solvent use in manufactured products, etc. ENM are used in over 1,317 consumer applications [2] • The increased reactivity of ENM can also mean increased toxicity. Hazards of ENM to human health and safety need to be better understood, adopting a case-by-case approach. Animal studies show that some ENM can reach the lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, reproductive organs, brain, etc. via inhalation or ingestion. Effects are mainly found in the lungs (e.g. inflammation, oxidative stress, fibrosis, tumours). Epidemiological studies on natural or man-made nanomaterials also show effects on the cardio- vascular system. Dermal absorption is being debated. Safety risks (fire, explosion) of some nano-powders (mainly metal powders) http://osha.europa.eu 3
  4. 4. Engineered Nanomaterials (ENMs) in the workplace • ENM are already in many workplaces 20,000 to 114,000 jobs in 450 nanotechnology enterprises in Germany, 2004 [3] 75% of EU companies manufacturing or using ENM are SMEs [4] • The obligation to assess the risks of ENM in the workplace and to eliminate, substitute or reduce the risks to the minimum following the hierarchy of control measures apply (Directive 98/24/EC), although challenging due to uncertainty on health and safety effects and on exposure measurement methods Guidance and tools for ENM risk management are available [3] Control measures: replacing powder ENM by ENM in a fluid matrix, local ventilation and discharge control measures (e.g. filtration) used against ultrafine dust and aerosols, organisational measures, and as last resort, personal protective equipment. • ENM risk management is easier at the manufacturing stage but more difficult down the user chain Little and poor quality information in the Safety Data Sheets makes it difficult for downstream employers and workers to assess exposures and implement adequate prevention measures. http://osha.europa.eu
  5. 5. What is known from the research on risk perception • Risk perception is rarely directly correlated to a strict assessment of potential gains and losses • Risk perceptions are not uniform across technologies, countries and time • Risk perception depends on a mixture of: The general characteristics of a risk The socio-demographic attributes and cultural traditions Technical knowledge and common-sense reasoning Personal experience, psychological disposition and the perceived context associated with risk events (communication, management and control) Social communication • As an emerging scientific area, ENM have inherent characteristics (e.g. uncertainty, lack of familiarity, man-made, unknown exposure, potential delayed, irreversible damage) known to engender mistrust and fear and to feed conflict. This has the potential to delay prevention and control. • For communicators to manage the risk decision-making process in a rapidly evolving environment requires an understanding of a wide range of risk perceptions and trust levels. http://osha.europa.eu 5
  6. 6. Current trends in perception of ENM• The public and some workers generally have minimal knowledge and understanding of ENM, which reduces their ability to reach an informed stance The majority of Europeans (54%) have never heard of nanotechnology [5]. More than 51% of all participants from surveys in the EU, US and Japan, reported knowing nothing at all, and nearly 30% „just a little‟ about nanotechnologies. Only 20% claimed to know some‟ or „a lot‟ about nanotechnology [6] Differences between countries: Some Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden) show higher public awareness, with at least three quarters of respondents who had heard of nanotechnology, while other EU countries reflect lower awareness, with only a quarter of respondents having heard of it (e.g. Portugal, Malta) [5]• Awareness is affected by socio-demographic factors [5]: Gender: 54% of men compared to 39% of women have heard of nanotechnology Educational level: • those who have heard of nanotechnology are either managers, or left school to go into full-time education or are everyday users of the Internet • while those least familiar with nanotechnology left school early and are non-users of the Internet. http://osha.europa.eu 6
  7. 7. Perception of benefits against risks: a fragile balance• The risk/benefit perception varies with sector and application Medical applications for the purpose of curing disease generally meet with public approval whereas medical application for improving human performance does not, nor does the use of nanotechnology in food• Despite low level of knowledge, the general public expects benefits of ENM to predominate over risks.• Experts are generally more concerned about ENM health hazards, although they are limited in their knowledge of the exact benefits/risks balance• As yet, there is no outright rejection of ENM, but the perception of risk/benefit balance is fragile and could easily be damaged, e.g. by a public scare [7]• The lack of knowledge or concern about occupational health and safety hazards of ENM in SMEs appears to be a significant challenge for risk management Few SMEs are concerned with health and safety questions associated with ENM (less than with ENM properties or economical potential). SMEs think that public acceptance of nanomaterial is not a barrier for the application of ENM, which reflects a „lack of awareness on the potential risks of such aspects for the nanomaterial branch„ [4] http://osha.europa.eu 7
  8. 8. Risk communication on ENM is more challenging thanfor traditional chemicals• The scientific uncertainties (on ENM hazards and on exposure and risk quantification) allow opposing sides to draw contradictory or sweeping conclusions, lead to misunderstandings that can foster distrust, and provide a fertile ground for confusion, controversy and delay in risk management.• Poor risk communication based on misinformation may generate confusion and lead to unjustified fears or to underestimation of the risks, with consequent damage to health and the environment.• The complexity and diversity of nano-scale forms of chemicals and the fact that materials with the same name can have different properties at the nano- scale can cause confusion, lead to the generation of misleading information on their properties and result in ambiguity in risk communication. People tend to underestimate common or familiar risks, therefore for some ENM where people are familiar with the name, such as silver, it may be difficult to convince them for the need of control measures• Individuals generally expect risks from dangerous substances to increase with quantity, whereas ENM are often handled in smaller quantities, which can add to this potential for confusion. http://osha.europa.eu 8
  9. 9. Importance of risk communication on ENM• Various sources acknowledge and that risk communication is an integral part of risk management and that an effective, transparent, balanced and open dialogue with all concerned parties is key to the responsible, healthy and sustainable development of nanotechnology.• The European Commission (EC) Recommendation on a code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research (2008) recognises the need for a high level of public health, safety, environmental and consumer protection„, to identify and address safety concerns (real or perceived) at the earliest possible stage„, and for risk communication. [8]• Benefits from good risk communication include [9]: people being informed of how to protect themselves and how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information; risk managers gaining a better idea of the concerns and preferences of stakeholders; enhancing an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect that is essential for co- operation and joint problem solving, in particular in crisis situations. http://osha.europa.eu 9
  10. 10. What is a good risk communication?• It should not be „an attempt to convince people that the communicator has done the right thing„ but assist stakeholders to arrive at a balanced judgement in relation to their own interests and values [9]• It is not simply the provision of information but a two-way process by which all sides can learn something from one another.• It needs to be accessible, tailored to the target audiences, taking into account their different information needs, preferences, concerns and value systems.• Different approaches should be used depending on whether risks are routine, highly uncertain or potentially controversial [9]• Five inter-related areas shape perception and have to be considered [10] the perception-specific mechanisms, the cultural attitudes, how the risk is framed in a message, the role of the media and the place of scientists• Effective risk communication should involve four key steps: understand the issue and risks determine what needs to be communicated, by whom and to whom establish and implement a risk communication strategy evaluate and review http://osha.europa.eu 10
  11. 11. Existing risk communication initiatives on ENM• Much of the risk communication material on ENM is prepared mostly in English by scientists for other scientists, occupational safety & health specialists or regulators rather than for workers and employers.• There are good examples of risk communication on ENM, although not always specifically targeted at the workplace: Many ENM projects in the EU Framework programmes include risk communication although mostly not directly relevant or appropriate for workplaces. The EC Nanotech Communication Roadmap is a dialogue with the public via a range of approaches such as television and road-shows [11] Initiatives by Member States (e.g. AU, DE, DK, FR, IT, NL or UK), producers, industry associations or trade unions. • E.g. BASF produced a Code of Conduct for nanotechnology and engages with its workers through one-to-one conversation, dialogue events, and printed and web media [12] • Information material by the trade unions, e.g. from the European Trade Union Institute [13] • Web platforms set up by academics, industry and governments, e.g. GoodNanoGuide [14] http://osha.europa.eu 11
  12. 12. Recommendations (1) • Aitken et al. (2009) remind researchers, who publish and review papers on the human health impacts of ENM and communicate with the media, the public and decision-makers, to ensure that [16]: all descriptions of ENM hazards recognise the intrinsic heterogeneity of ENM and discuss the uncertainty of alleged causality; there is a convincing and scientifically sustainable link between ENM exposure and pathological outcomes putatively associated with that exposure; sufficient physical and chemical characterisation data are provided on the ENM in question to support valid data interpretation and comparison. • Policy-makers should develop risk communication strategies on ENM targeted at workplaces learning from previous risk communication initiatives. • For this, they should beforehand gain an understanding of the nature of their audience, their values and concerns (often raised by novel science or emerging technology). • Their participation and visibility in public debates and dialogues are also important for engendering trust and openness. http://osha.europa.eu 12
  13. 13. Recommendations (2) • When devising risk communication strategies for workplaces, the existing level of knowledge has to be considered. • Communication needs to begin by explaining what nanomaterials mean and how the worker is potentially going to encounter them. • When communicating to workplaces, the terminology employed may need to be refined and made more specific. The usefulness of the generic terminology “nanomaterial” while different types of ENM have different properties and health effects is questionable when communicating to workplaces. • More exploration required on how to overcome the potential for confusion caused by nomenclature, i.e. materials with essentially the same name having vastly different properties at the nano-scale. • Policy makers and stakeholders need to be consistent in the framing of ENM and use of terminology. • In the occupational settings it is crucial that key risk information is retained and acted upon. Good use should be made of influential and trusted intermediaries. http://osha.europa.eu 13
  14. 14. Recommendations (3)• There is the potential for controversy in relation to ENM, and some already exists, so it is also important to justify risks in terms of potential benefits and the acceptability of risks from an ethical and moral perspective [9]• It is thereby important to communicate and discuss not only the potential risks of ENM, but also the uncertainties currently surrounding the field of their hazard characterisation.• Since there are uncertainties about ENM risks, it is important that those responsible for risk communication and management are not only competent but also recognised as such.• Regulators need to engage with industry, trade unions and consumer associations, sharing the responsibility for risk communication activities in order to develop science-based risk management policies.• There needs to be a clear process by which risk communication initiatives influence policy otherwise stakeholders will not engage. http://osha.europa.eu 14
  15. 15. Conclusions • The huge scope, novelty, excitement about promised benefits coupled with the uncertainty and low current level of understanding in a rapidly changing scientific field poses significant challenges for risk communication on ENM to workplaces. • Risk communication strategies need to handle these uncertainties and to be able to adapt to facilitate reframing and redefining of the issues as they change with the emergence of new ENM and scientific knowledge. • Because there is as yet no outright rejection of nanotechnology, policy- makers have the opportunity to define how to frame communication on ENM to promote a sensible risk management. Once this frame has been found it needs to be used consistently among stakeholders. • In order to ensure long-term success of risk communication initiatives to workplaces, these should inform decisions that employers make about workplaces and support them in implementing adequate prevention measures; and empower individual workers to exert personal control over their own situations and environments. http://osha.europa.eu 15
  16. 16. References[1] Commission Recommendation of 18 October 2011 on the definition of Nanomaterial (2011/696/EU). http://eur- lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:275:0038:0040:EN:PDF[2] Woodrow Wilson, Consumer products inventory, 2011. http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/[3] EU-OSHA, Workplace exposure to nanoparticles, European Risk Observatory, Report 2, 2009. http://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/literature_reviews/workplace_exposure_to_nanoparticles[4] Steinbeis Europa Zentrum, Nanoroad SME, 2005[5] EC - European Commission, Special Eurobarometer, Biotechnology in Europe, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf[6] Satterfield, T., Kandlikar, M., Beaudrie, C. E. H., Conti, J., Herr Harthorn, B., ‘Anticipating the perceived risk of nanotechnologies’, Nature Nanotechnology, Vol. 4, 2009, pp. 752-758[7] Stilgoe, J., Nanodialogues Experiments in public engagement with science, DEMOS Report, 2007. http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Nanodialogues - web.pdf[8] EC, Recommendation of 07/02/2008 on a Code of Conduct, for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research. http://ec.europa.eu/nanotechnology/pdf/nanocode-rec_pe0894c_en.pdf[9] OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Guidance Document on Risk Communication for Chemical Risk Management, ENV/JM/MONO(2002)18, 2002. http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/displaydocumentpdf/?cote=env/jm/mono(2002)18&doclanguage=en[10] Schuler, E., A prospective look at risk communication in the nanotechnology field, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), 2004[11] EC, Communicating Nanotechnology, Why, to whom, saying what and how? An action-packed roadmap towards a brand new dialogue, 2010. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/nanotechnology/docs/communicating-nanotechnology_en.pdf[12] BASF, Nanotechnology. http://www.basf.com/group/corporate/en/sustainability/dialogue/in-dialogue-with- politics/nanotechnology/index[13] ETUI - European Trade Union Institute, Nanotechnologies. http://www.etui.org/Topics/Health-Safety/Nanotechnologies[14] GoodNanoGuide: www.goodnanoguide.org[15] CNDP – French National Commission for Public Debate, Result of the public debate on development and regulation of nanotechnologies - 15 Octobre 2009 – 24 Février 2010 [Bilan du débat public sur le développement et la régulation des nanotechnologies 15 Octobre 2009 – 24 Février 2010]. http://www.debatpublic-nano.org/informer/bilan_debat.html[16] Aitken, R., Borm, P., Donaldson, K., Ichihara, G., Loft, S., Marano, F., Maynard, A., Oberdörster, G., Stamm, H., Stonem V., Tran, L., Wallin, H., ‘Nanoparticles – one word: A multiplicity of different hazards,’ Nanotoxicology, Vol. 3, 2009, pp. 263-264. http://osha.europa.eu 16
  17. 17. Cover pictures (from top left to bottom right):Picture 1: MaterialscientistPicture 2: Jeremy Baumberg - University of Southampton, UKPicture 3: Yong Peng - University of Sheffield, UKPicture 4: Jeremy Baumberg - University of Southampton, UKPicture 5: A. Yakunin et al - Eindhoven University of Technology, NetherlandsPicture 6: Stan Guthrie - Yale University, USAAll pictures licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. http://osha.europa.eu 17