10/24/2007 01:27:51 PM EST
Nanotechnology and Workers' Compensation
They say nanotechnology is "poised to be the globe's next big economic driver", the "industrial revolution of the 21st century", "the plastics of the 21st century". But what are the health risks (i.e., cancer) for millions of workers exposed to nanotech processes and materials? When it comes to industrial hazards in the workplace, is nanotechnology the new asbestos?
Nanotechnology, which has been in development for 20 years, has seen rapid growth in recent years. There are now over 500 everyday products on the market that use nanotech processes and/or materials. The National Science Foundation forecasts that, by 2015, over $1 trillion in nanotechnology-enabled products will be on the market.
Insurance companies have been scrambling to assess the risks and how to cover those risks for their clients. It's believed that the majority of the large industries have created best practices for the careful handling of nanotech materials, whereas small R&D companies have been known not to implement any type of risk management.
Nanotechnology in a nutshell. Nanotechnology is the "field of applied science and technology whose unifying theme is the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, normally 1 to100 nanometers, and the fabrication of devices within that size range." Source: Wikipedia. Potential products include new medicines that are non-invasive, non-toxic, and less expensive, lighter and stronger materials for airplanes and cars, improvements in solar energy generation, and more.
The Nano landscape. The top 4 nanotechnology states are California, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas. The top 5 "Nano Metro" areas are San Jose, CA, Boston, MA, San Francisco, CA, Oakland, CA, and Middlesex Essex, MA. Source: Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
The National Nanotechnology Initiative
The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
The Center for Nanoscale Science & Technology at Rice University
The United States Environmental Protection Agency
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)