There’s an Oct. 15, 2011 news item on Nanowerk announcing the US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s Environmental, Health, and Safety webinar on research strategies.
Federal Agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) are hosting a webinar to announce the release of the 2011 NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research Strategy and to the discuss the development of this document and its key focus areas. The webinar will be held October 20, 2011 from 12 noon until 12:45p.m [EDT].
The event will consist of an overview of the strategy’s development followed by comments from industrial, regulatory, and public health perspectives. Dr. John Howard, Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group Co-Chair, will serve as the moderator. Panelists include:
- Dr. Treye Thomas, NEHI Working Group Co-Chair
- Dr. Shaun Clancy, Evonik DeGussa Corporation
- Dr. Janet Carter, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Ms. Lynn Bergeson, Bergeson & Campbell
The webinar will also feature a 20-minute question-and-answer segment following the presentations. Questions may be submitted prior to the webinar to email@example.com beginning at noon (EDT) Wednesday, October 19, 2011 and will be accepted until the close of the webinar at 12:45 p.m. Thursday, October 20, 2011. [???]
I’m pretty sure that last bit is an error. I can’t imagine a webinar that lasts for 25 hours, at least not on this topic.
As registration is necessary to watch the webinar, I tried to do so and failed each time. I think the problem is that I don’t have a zip code. Usually I can fill in a Canadian postal code instead but this system rejected every attempt. If you do have a US zip code, you can register here.
In preparation for this webinar about EHS research strategies to be undertaken by US federal agencies, Dr. Andrew Maynard has summarized some of the public comments about the key recommendations in the draft version, which was published in December 2010. Excerpted from Andrew’s Oct. 15, 2011 posting,
An integrated and linked research effort to assess, via epidemiological studies, the impact of exposure to engineered nanomaterials on human health and any necessary resultant risk assessment/management responses seems to be missing from the strategy.
…what would it take to craft a federal strategy that enabled agencies to work together more effectively in ensuring the safe use of nanomaterials? I’m not sure that this is entirely possible – an internal strategy will always be constrained by the system in ways that an externally-crafted strategy isn’t. But I do think that there are three areas in particular that could be built on here:
- Principles. The idea of establishing principles to which agencies sign up to is a powerful one, and could be extended further. For instance, they could include a commitment to working closely and cooperatively with other agencies, to working toward a common set of aims, and to critically reviewing progress towards these aims on a regular basis.
- Accountability. The implementation and coordination framework set out in chapter 8 of the draft strategy contains a number of items that, with a bit of work, some group within the federal government could be held accountable to. Formally, the NNCO would seem to be the most appropriate organization to be held responsible for progress here. With accountability for actions that support the implementation and coordination of the strategy, a basis could be built for an actionable strategy, rather than wishful thinking.
- Innovation. So often in documents like this, there is a sense of defeatism – “this is the system, and there’s nothing we can do to change it”. Yet there are always innovative ways to circumvent institutional barriers in order to achieve specific ends. I would strongly encourage the NEHI to start from the question “where to we want to go, and how are we going to get there”, rather than “what are we allowed to do”, and from this starting point explore innovative ways of making substantive and measurable progress towards the stated mission of the strategy. Just one possibility here is to use the model of the Signature Initiatives being developed elsewhere within the NNI – which overcome institutional barriers to encourage agencies to focus on a common challenge. Something similar to a Signature Initiative focused on predictive modeling, or personal exposure measurement, or nanomaterial characterization, could enable highly coordinated and integrated cross-agency programs that accelerate progress toward specific goals. But this is just one possibility – there are surely many more ways of getting round the system!
John DiLoreto, The Nanotechnology Coalition
A core mission of the NNI is to foster “technological advancements that benefit society” (Draft NNI 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Strategy, page 1). The NNI strategy provides valuable help in identifying key research areas and, in some cases, providing the necessary funding to conduct the research itself. The Coalition believes that to fulfill its mission in this regard, the NNI could and should direct its considerable influence and resources to educating regulatory and other officials in positions of influence about nanotechnology so they can better fulfill their responsibilities to protect the safety of consumers. The EHS research strategy should also examine ways that science-based safety information can be shared with regulatory officials and others in leadership positions and provide scientific resources to assist these officials in understanding what a ‘nanomaterial’ is and help create a better understanding of properties that may impact safety.
Section 6, p. 56, line 23/25/26/30 – 23 conflates translation with risk communication (they are different). 25 “approaches” is unclear and should reference levels of acceptable caution. 26 high uncertainty may demand whole new algorithms – your assumption whether risk communication and risk management can be integrated is incorrect. 30 is a good point to discuss the conflation of translation which occurs between parties within similar ranges of understanding and public perception (NGOs) as well as perception of public perception (legislators). Each of these subset publics have different needs and interests and standardization of terminology is hardly sufficient to the task at hand.
p. 57 line 4 – see above and consider we might need to develop algorithms appropriate to different levels of certainty. The assumption the answer to uncertainty is more certainty is not necessarily valid for all publics. The simplified version in the document seems more attuned to strategic communication involving response strategies for different risks and certainty values involving variables like plausibility, phenomenon specificity, exigence, salience, etc.
p. 63 lines 34/37 34 (see above). 37 one model does not fit all. 38 link to trust is very complex and complicated by new/digital media sources as well as new credibility (social media) and reliability.
p. 58 lines 1/5/11/27 (see above) and this demands information sharing and transparency as well as answering how data is defined, who decides what is relevant data, how it is generated, how data is compiled and concatenated. how data is vetted and debunked, and how data is revised. 5 two ways is overly simplistic, try interactional. 11 this is a model issue and we do not have a model for high uncertainty. 27 assumes risk communication is a function of data, esp. scientific data and for many publics that is not true.
p. 76 – Explanation SP objective 4.2 re: needs of the stakeholders – it might be prudent to ask them what their needs are.
Samantha Dozier, PETA
A complete, step-wise method for rigorous characterization is imperative so that measurement is not questioned and studies are not repeated. A clear requirement for nanomaterial characterization will help eliminate redundancy and imprecise data-gathering and will aid in reducing animal use for the field.
For human health effects assessment, the NNI should promote the development of a tiered, weight-of-evidence approach that is based on the most relevant methods available and encourages the NNI to support the incorporation of appropriate in vitro human-relevant cell and tissue assays for all endpoints, instead of relying on inadequately modified, non-validated animal assays. This tiered approach should start with an initial characterization of the nanomaterial, followed by in vitro basal cell and portal-of-entry toxicity assessments according to human exposure potential and a full characterization of the toxicokinetic potential.
There’s a lot more in Andrew’s posting. It saddens me even more now that I see Andrew’s posting that Health Canada did not make the submissions to its public consultation on “Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials” available for viewing (my Oct. 11, 2011 posting).