Tag Archives: NE3LS

NE3LS November 2012 conference in Montréal

NE3LS is one of the worst abbreviations I’ve ever seen but, despite my opinion, it ([Nanotechnology] Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social Issues—NE3LS) lives on. This March 12, 2012 posting on the Nanotechnology Development blog announces the 1st Nanotechnology NE3LS conference in November 2012,

Ne3LS Network (Network on ethical, environmental, economic and legal and social issues pertaining to nanotechnology) is organizing first International conference with the theme “The Responsible Development of Nanotechnology: Challenges and Perspectives”.  The conference will held at Montréal, Canada during November 1-2, 2012.

I have noted the difference between my guess as to what the N in NE3LS stands for and the Nanotechnology Development blog’s rendition. I’d usually stick with mine since there is an NE3LS research project at the National Institute of Nanotechnology and it’s highly unlikely that N  stands for network but the conference organizers are the ones claiming the N stands for Network on the conference home page.

The NE3LS Network was launched in March 2011 in Montréal, from the launch webpage,

The launch of the Ne3LS Network (Knowledge Network on the Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social issues regarding Nanotechnology) took place on March 9, 2011. Guests of honour at this event included Dr. Fabrice Brunet, Director of the CHU Sainte-Justine, Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center, Dr. Joseph Hubert, Vice-Rector of Research and International Relations at the University of Montreal, Mr. Yves Joanette, President and CEO of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), Mrs. Marie Larue, President and CEO of the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST)  and Mr. Luc Castonguay, Director of Academic Research at the Ministry of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade (MDEIE). The Ne3LS Network is the result of a collaboration between Québec’s research funding organizations, the MDEIE, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) and NanoQuébec.

Mr. Charles-Anica Endo, Executive Director, and Dr. Renaldo Battista, Scientific Director, took this opportunity to announce the winners of the network’s first call for projects, held in December 2010. In addition, the Axis Directors presented the multiple dimensions of nanotechnology, from their very definition to their governance and their associated risks. Attendees also had the privilege of hearing two world-renowned nanotechnology researchers, Mrs. Céline Lafontaine, sociologist, and Dr. Richard Martel, chemist.

One of the keynote speakers at the March 9, 2011 event, Céline Lafontaine, was mentioned here in my March 10, 2010 posting (scroll about 1/3 of the way down) in the context of the 2009 nanotechnology debates in France, which had been seriously disrupted to the point where some were cancelled.

Getting back to the NE3LS conference in Montréal, here’s a bit more information, from the conference home page,

The Network on ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social issues regarding nanotechnology development (Ne3LS) is hosting an international conference to initiate thought-provoking discussion on the responsible development of nanotechnology. The Ne3LS Network International Conference 2012 will explore the following themes within an international and multidisciplinary framework:

  • How to assess the risks of nanotechnology, scientific, economic, social, or environmental
  • Governance: What are the responsibilities of researchers, industry, government, and the general public in the development of nanotechnologies? What is the contribution of industry to the development of standards and regulations?
  • Can responsible development of nanotechnology foster innovation and contribute to economic development?
  • What are the impacts of nanomedicine and nanohealth on the health care system?
  • How can the public be best informed and consulted on nanotechnology issues?

Invited speakers will address each of these topics.

There is a Call for Papers Theme webpage with this,

… the international conference has issued a call for abstracts to address the following subthemes at concurrent sessions:

  1. Toxicity: new methods, new concepts?
  2. Occupational health and safety: how to adapt to nanotechnologies
  3. What are the environmental risks?
  4. Innovation and the economy and the challenges of globalization
  5. Public-private partnerships in risk-sharing?
  6. Nano-health: toward privatization of medical services?
  7. International regulations and political issues
  8. National regulatory standards: free exchange or “no data, no market”?
  9. Ethics: the precautionary principle and sustainable development of nanotechnologies
  10. Educate whom and how?
  11. What modalities could be used for public consultation and to what end?
  12. Nanofoods: can the genetically-modified food (GMO) scenario be avoided?

Here are the guidelines,


  • All presentations will be in English
  • The topic must be relevant to one of the 12 subthemes described in the Ne3LS Network International Conference 2012, Themes
  • Each oral presentation will be 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute question period
  • Poster presentations will also be available
  • Abstracts will be selected as oral or poster presentation, at the discretion of the selection committee.


Those submitted by any other means will not be considered.

  • Closing date: all submissions must be received by Monday May 14, 2012
  • Cover letter: Please attach a cover letter specifying
    • Corresponding author: full name, address, telephone number, fax (if applicable), and email address
    • A short one-paragraph bio for each author, indicating relevant expertise and interest in the topic
    • Format: Word file
    • Language: English
    • Abstract
      • Word count: maximum 250 words
      • Structured as follows:
        • Author(s) (Last name, first name)
        • Title of presentation
        • Author affiliations (institution, country)
        • Text
        • 3-5 keywords
    • Font: standard font to prevent special characters from getting lost, e.g. Arial or Times New Roman, 12-point
    • In submitting an abstract, the author(s) agree that the abstract may be published among other documents associated with the Ne3LS Network International Conference 2012, Montreal, Canada.


  • Submissions will be evaluated by an international, multidisciplinary scientific committee
  • Principal criteria for selection will be:
    • Quality of the abstract
    • Relevance to the general themes and, more specifically, to the subthemes described in the Ne3LS Network International Conference 2012, Themes
    • Corresponding authors will be notified of acceptance by email by June 29, 2012
    • Notification of acceptance will indicate whether the presentation was selected as an oral or poster presentation
    • Authors whose abstracts are selected are expected to pay their registration fees at the latest by July 15, 2012.

You have almost two months to write up your abstract (nice to stumble across something a little earlier than usual so I’m not announcing a deadline that comes due in three days). Good luck!

For those who prefer French language information, here’s a link to the NE3LS (Réseau de connaisannces) French version website.

Nanomaterials, toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

Thanks to a reader who provided me with a link, I found a document (titled Evidence) about a ‘nanomaterials’ hearing held by Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health on June 10, 2010 and chaired by Joyce Murray, Member of Parliament, Vancouver Quadra. It makes for interesting reading and you can find it here.

The official title for the hearing was Potential Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology, which I found out after much digging around. The purpose for the *hearing*  seemed to be the education of the committee members about nanotechnology both generally (what is it? is there anything good about it?) and about its possible toxicology.

For information about the committee and the meeting, go here to find the minutes, the evidence (direct link provided in 1st para.), and your choice of webcasts (English version, French version, and floor version). One comment before you go, keep scrolling down past the sidebar and the giant white box to find the list of meetings along with appropriate links and if you choose to listen to the webcast, wait at least 1 minute for the audio to start. There’s a list of the committee members here, again scroll down past the giant white box to find the information.

I am going to make a few comments about this hearing. I will have to confine myself to a few points as the committee covered quite a bit of ground in the proceedings as they grappled with understanding something about nanotechnology, health and safety issues, benefits, and regulatory frameworks, amongst other issues.

It was unexpected to find that Mihail Roco, a well known figure in the US nanotechnology field, was speaking via videoconference (from the document),

Dr. Mihail Roco (Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology, National Nanotechnology Initiative, National Science Foundation, As an Individual) (p. 1 in print version, p. 3 in PDF)

He did have this to say,

First of all, I would like to present an overview of different themes in the United States, and thereafter make some recommendations, some ideas for the future. [emphasis mine] (p. 5 in print version, p. 7 in PDF)

I have to say my eyebrows raised at Roco’s “… make some recommendations …” comment. While appreciative of his experience and perspective, I’ve sometimes found that speakers from the US tend to give recommendations that are better geared to their own situation and less so to the Canadian one. Thankfully,  he offered unexceptional advice that I heartily agree with,

I would like to say, in conclusion, that it’s important to have an anticipatory, participatory, and adaptive governance approach to nanotechnology in order to capture the new developments and also to prepare people, tools, and organizations for the future. (p. 6 in print version, p. 8 in PDF)

The Canadian guests are not as well known to me save for Dr. Nils Petersen who heads up Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology. Here is a list of the Canadian guest speakers,

Mr. (sometimes referred to as Dr. in the document) Claude Ostiguy (Director, Research and Expertise Support Department, Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail) (p. 1 in print version, p. 3 in PDF)

Dr. Nils Petersen (Director General, National Research Council Canada, National Institute for Nanotechnology) (p. 2 in print version, p. 4 in PDF)

Dr. Claude Emond (Toxicologist, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Université de Montréal) (p. 3 in print version, p. 5 in PDF)

Ms. Françoise Maniet (Lecturer and Research Agent, Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la biologie, la santé, la société et l’environnement (CINBIOSE) et Groupe de recherche en droit international et comparé de la consommation (GREDICC), Université du Québec à Montréal) (p. 4 in print version, p. 6 in PDF)

Emond spoke to the need for a national nanotechnology development strategy. He also mentioned communication although I’m not sure he and would agree much beyond the point that some communication programmes are necessary,

The different meetings I attend point out the necessity to integrate the social communication transparency education aspect in nanotechnology development, so many structures already exist around the words. As I said before with OECD, NNI, we also have ISO 229. Now we have a network called NE3LS in Quebec, and we also have this international team we created a few years ago, which I spoke about earlier [he leads an international team in nano safety with members from France, Japan, US, Germany, and Canada].

A Canadian strategy initiative in nanotechnology can be inspired by a group above. In closing the discussion, I want to say there is an urgent need to coordinate the national development of nanotechnology and more particularly in parallel with the nanosafety issue, including research, characterization exposure, toxicology, and assessment. I would like to conclude by saying that Canada has to assume leadership in nanosafety and contribute to this international community rather than wait and see.

The NE3LS in Québec is new to me and I wonder if  they liaise with the team in Alberta last mentioned here in connection with Alberta’s Nanotechnology Asset Map.

In response to a question from the committee member, Mrs. Cathy McLeod, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo,

First, because I am someone who is somewhat new to the understanding of this issue, could we take an example of either a cosmetic or a food or something that’s commonplace and follow it through from development into the product so I could understand the pathway of a nanoparticle in a cosmetic product or food? (p. 6 in print version, p. 8 in PDF)

The example Dr. Ostiguy used for his response was titanium dioxide nanoparticles in sunscreens and his focus was occupational safety, i.e., what happens to people working to produce these sunscreens.  The surprising moment came when I saw Dr. Petersen’s response as he added,

In the case of cosmetics, they take that nanoparticle and put it into the cream formulation at a factory site. Then it normally comes out to the consumer encapsulated or protected in one way or another. [emphasis mine]

In general, in those kinds of manufacturing environments the risks are at the start of the process, when you are making the particles and incorporating them into a material, and possibly at the end of the product’s life, when you’re disposing of it. It might then be released in ways that you might not have anticipated—for example, through the wearing down or opening of the cassette of toner or whatever.

I think those are the two areas. Most consumers would see a product in which nanoparticles are encapsulated or incorporated— maybe inside a cellphone, or something like that—and often not be exposed in that way. (p. 7 in print version, p. 9 in PDF)

As I understand Petersen’s comments, he believes that the nanoparticles in sunscreens (and other cosmetics) do not make direct contact as they are somehow incorporated into a shell or capsule. He then makes a comparison to cell phones to prove his point. This is incorrect. Yes, any nanomaterials in a cell phone are bound to the product (cell phones are not rubbed onto the skin) but the nanoparticles in sunscreens make direct contact and *penetrate the skin. *ETA June 28, 2010: It has not been unequivocally proved that nanoparticles penetrate healthy adult skin. I apologize for the error. ** ETA July 19, 2010: As per the July 18, 2010 posting on Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science blog, the evidence so far suggests that there is no skin penetration by nanoparticles in sunscreens.

I have posted extensively about nanoparticles and sunscreens and will try later to lay in some links either to my posts or to more informed parties as to safety issues regarding consumers.

There was an interesting development towards the end of the meeting with Carolyn Bennett, St. Paul’s,

Firstly, I wanted to apologize for being late. I think some of you know it was the tenth anniversary of CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research] this morning, the breakfast, and some of us who were there at the birth were supposed to be there at the birthday party. So my apologies.

What happened on the way in to the breakfast was that I ran into Liz Dowdeswell, from the Council of Canadian Academies, and it seems that they have just done a review of nanotechnology in terms of pros and cons. [emphasis mine]So I would first ask the clerk and the analyst to circulate that report to the committee, because I think it might be very helpful to us, and then I think it would be interesting to know if the witnesses had seen it and whether they had further comments on whether you felt it was taking Canada in the right direction.

The report mentioned by Bennett was released in July 8, 2008 (news release). You can find the full report here and the abridged version here.

I wouldn’t describe this report as having just been “done” but I think that as a primer it stands up well. (You can read my 2008 comments here.)

I do find it sad that neither this committee nor Peter Julian the Member of Parliament who earlier this year tabled the first bill concerned with nanotechnology were aware of the report’s existence. It adds weight to an issue (nobody in Ottawa seems to be aware of their work) for the Council of Canadian Academies mentioned on this blog here (where you will find links to a more informed discussion by Rob Annan at Don’t leave Canada behind and the folks at The Black Hole).

I’m glad to see there’s some interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa and I hope they continue to dig for more information.

I have sent Joyce Murray a set of questions which I hope she’ll answer about the committee’s interest in nanotechnology and about the science resources and advice available to the Members of Parliament.

ETA June 30, 2010: I received this correction from Mr. Julian’s office today:

I would like to bring to your attention incorrect information provided in the Frogheart posting on June 23, Nanomaterials, Toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. Of particular concern are the closing comments:

“I do find it sad that neither this committee nor Peter Julian the Member of Parliament who earlier this year tabled the first bill concerned with nanotechnology were aware of the report’s existence. It adds weight to an issue (nobody in Ottawa seems to be aware of their work) for the Council of Canadian Academies mentioned on this blog here (where you will find links to a more informed discussion by Rob Annan at Don’t leave Canada behind and the folks at The Black Hole). I’m glad to see there’s some interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa and I hope they continue to dig for more information.”

Mr. Julian is indeed aware of the Council of Canadian Academies excellent report on nanotechnology in 2008. The document is one of many that formed the basis of Mr. Julian’s Bill C-494 which was tabled in Parliament on March 10. It is incorrect to assume that Mr. Julian was not aware of the report’s existence.

There is indeed interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa. Canadians should expect sustained interest when the House of Commons reconvenes in September with a focus on better ensuring that nanotechnology’s benefits are safely produced in the marketplace.

I apologize for the error and I shouldn’t have made the assumption. I am puzzled that the Council of Canadian Academies report was not mentioned in the interview Mr. Julian very kindly gave me and where I explicitly requested some recommendations for Canadians who want to read up about nanotechnology. Mr. Julian’s reply (part 2 of the interview) did not include a reference to the Council’s nanotechnology report, which I consider more readable than some of the suggestions offered.

*’haring’ changed to ‘hearing’ on July 26, 2016.

Comments on the Alberta’s Nanotechnology Assets Map in booklet form

I hope this is the first of more editions for Alberta’s Nanotechnology Asset Map booklet in print/PDF versions as it provides one of the very few overviews of the nanotechnology scene in Canada even if it is confined to one province. The only other comparable document (that I know of) was the BC Nanotechnology Asset Map which was distributed in March 2008 by Nanotech BC (now defunct).

I expect nanoAlberta can rely on provincial government support given that (from the booklet),

Recognizing Alberta’s opportunities, the Government of Alberta launched a strategy in 2007 to create $20 billion in new nanotechnology-enabled commerce by the year 2020. Under the strategy, the provincial government has committed to provide $130 million over five years to expand research and development of new commercial applications that support Alberta’s traditional economic strengths and spur economic growth. (p. 2 of the executive summary in the print version, p. 7 of PDF)

The booklet is 118 pages in PDF or 73 pages in print (for some reason the pages for the executive summary are counted separately from the report resulting in the large count disparity between the PDF and print versions).

The report itself includes a listing of nanotechnology researchers in Alberta along with their areas of specialization, an overview of the research institutions, a listing of various agencies designed to support commercialization. a list of current nanotechnology businesses located in Alberta, and more. The interactive map produced by nanoAlberta is available here and includes a link to each company’s website.

I was relieved to see mention of nanotechnology in relation to social issues as per the reference to this team at Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT),

NE3LS – Nanotechnology, Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social Issues

The overarching goal of NE3LS research is to focus attention on the broader issues that nanotechnology raises and to inspire the responsible and ethical translation of nanotechnology to society. NE3LS researchers focus on understanding the development of nanoscience and technology within a broader societal and transnational context. Current and ongoing research is focused on the development of a deeper understanding of issues related to the environment, human health and safety, law, policy and ethics, public opinion, commercialization and the development of a socio-historical analysis of the growth of nanoscience and technology. (p. 69 in PDF and p. 35 in print version)

Interestingly, the researchers for the NE3LS group are not named in the researchers’ listing. I don’t know what the standard international take is on including social researchers and their ilk as part of the nanotechnology research scene but this exclusion reminded me of something. There’s a void to be found in Canada where there have been very few attempts to study and/or discuss social impacts that nanotechnology could have on society generally and in Canada relative to the activity I observe in the US, UK, and Europe. Anyway, I hope one day to see social science and humanities researchers included in lists of nanotechnology researchers in Canada regardless of what is done internationally.

From a navigational perspective, I would have appreciated a table of contents for the full booklet rather than than one for each section (although strangely they didn’t offer a table of contents for the  executive summary which was 20 pp.) of the booklet and an index might have been nice too. I’m not sure why the pagination was not consistent throughout the book since there was no need to exclude the executive summary from the page count.

Overall this is a very welcome first effort.

Canada, nanotechnology, and food

On the heels of last week’s House of Lords report (Nanotechnologies and food) I thought I’d take a look at the Canadian scene. Here’s what I found after a fast online search.  Health Canada has a nanotechnology web page here. It doesn’t seem to have been updated since early 2007.  There are no links or reports posted, just a promise such as this found on the web page,

Regulating products to ensure the health and safety of Canadians and the environment is a priority for Health Canada. Currently, the Department is using the existing legislative and regulatory frameworks to regulate applications of nanotechnology, but it is recognized that new approaches may be necessary in the future to keep pace with the advances in this area.

There is a description of the Canadian situation on a webpage hosted by the International Union of Food Science and Technology and Institute of Food Technologists here, titled An Overview of Food Related Nanoscience in Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet) and in Canada authored by Rickey Yada and Lorraine Sheremata [sic]. This doesn’t appear to have been updated after late 2007. From the web page,

In conclusion, although nanoscience research efforts in Canada have progressed substantially over the past few years with the activities of AFMNet, NINT [National Institute of Nanotechnology] and regional nodes, a number of issues still remain to be addressed: major gaps still exist in our understanding of the health, safety, environmental and societal impacts of nanotechnology – filling these gaps will be critically important to the long term success of nanotechnology; in order for the benefits of science and technology at the nanoscale level (e.g. reproductive and genetic technologies, regenerative medicine, synthetic biology, food science) to be realized and accepted, public trust will have to be gained via a coherent and rational approach to stewardship and finally; careful planning and strategic research coordination is necessary to avoid duplication of research efforts, thereby, allowing for synergistic and complementary efforts.

You can visit AFMNet here if you’re curious about this academic organization which gives information useful to researchers.

Interestingly and since the last time I looked (probably mid-2009), the National Institute of Nanotechnology has added a NE3LS (Nanotechnology Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social Issues) research programme here. Coincidentally, Lorraine Sheremeta (one of the authors of the food science and nanotechnology web page I referenced just previously) is a member of this research group. From the web page,

The NE3LS researchers focus on understanding the development of nanoscience and technology within a broader societal and transnational context. Current and ongoing research is focused on the development of a deeper understanding of issues related to the environment, human health and safety, law, policy and ethics, public opinion, commercialization and the development of a socio-historical analysis of the growth of nanoscience and technology.

NE3LS research has an important role to play in ensuring that acceptance or rejection of nanotechnology by society is based on a genuine understanding of specific technologies and the appropriate weighing of risks and benefits (both known and potential).

As I’m coming to expect, there are no posted reports and no links to more information.

I gather the Canadian government believes that food, health, and safety as regards nanotechnology is important but no additional information is to be shared with the rest of us.