Big Reports for Teenie Tiny Products: LCA and Nanotechnology

A report released this past week confirms that LCA is "an essential tool for ensuring the safe, responsible, and sustainable commercialization of nanotechnology." U.S. and European experts concluded this in the report titled, "Nanotechnology and Life Cycle Assessment: A Systems Approach to Nanotechnology and the Environment." With the number of nanotechnology-enabled products entering the market expected to grow dramatically -- from $30 billion in 2005 to $2.6 trillion in global manufactured goods using nanotechnology by 2014, wisely implemented assessment tools such as LCA can help corporations and researchers determine likely environmental impacts at various stages in a new nanotechnology product's life cycle. It also enables governments, industry and consumers to compare the environmental performance of a novel nanotech product with that of conventional products already on the market.

The report is based on discussions among 27 international nanotechnology and LCA experts from a two-day workshop held in October 2006, and is being simultaneously released by the European Commission (EC) and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The report concludes that our cherished International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and other widely used frameworks for LCA are fully applicable to nanomaterials and nanoproducts.Despite limitations to LCA for nanotechnologies such as the lack of specific nanotechnology toxicity data, the report calls for international cooperation to help overcome these data barriers. "Results can help to focus attention on high-priority products and issues with the aim of eliminating critical unknowns and encouraging life cycle thinking during the first wave of nanotechnology innovation." This is one of the best potential aspects of LCA - reducing impacts during research and development innovation. This is key to making sure nanotechnologies are used to their ultimate capabilities, while at the same time not causing harm to our beloved planet and its residents. Perhaps had we incorporated life cycle thinking at the design phase of the millions of products out there, we would be at a different place right now environmentally speaking. Bring on those long reports for those tiny technologies! Read the full report here. Via: PRNewswire. Read more about nanotechnology here, here, and here.

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