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Follow the Green Nano Road
Dr. Barbara Karn of USEPAs National Center for Environmental Research promotes green nanotechnology in an article in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. Dr. Karn points out that a combined total of over $9 billion is being spent annually by government and industry, but only 0.6% of this total expenditure ($60 million) is directed toward research for the protection of people and the planet.
Nanotechnology will constitute 15% of total production output by 2014 reaching $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods globally. Dr. Karn believes we need to practice green nanotechnology development to ensure that unforseen consequences are minimized and that impacts are anticipated throughout the full life cycle of a product incorporating nanotechnology.
Dr. Karn offers up several sustainability questions as "guideposts" to help direct our way on the green nanotechnology road. "Is the product or process something future generations will be proud of or merely endure? Are the materials used renewable? Has the carbon footprint of the product's full life cycle been defined? Is the product environmentally benign? Have life cycle assessment and material flow analysis tools been used to define any environmental implications? Has suitable toxicity data been compiled using reinvented toxicity tests?
Karn reminds us that practising green nanotechnology up front in this young industry by designing new products sustainably, is an opportunity to address environmental concerns which will promote increased long-term benefits.
For more information on EPA's nanotechnology research program see: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/nano