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Testing ethical impact assessment for nano risk governance

Malsch, Ineke; Isigonis, Panagiotis; Bouman, Evert Alwin; Afantitis, Antreas; Melagraki, Georgia; Dusinska, Maria


Tidsskrift: Open Research Europe, vol. 3, 170, 2024

Doi: doi.org/10.12688/openreseurope.16194.3

Risk governance of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies has been traditionally mainly limited to risk assessment, risk management and life cycle assessment. Recent approaches have experimented with widening the scope and including economic, social, and ethical aspects. This paper reports on tests and stakeholder feedback on fine-tuning the use of ethical impact assessment guidelines (RiskGONE D3.6) and online tools adapting the CEN Workshop Agreement part 2 CWA 17145-2:2017 (E)) to support risk governance of nanomaterials, in the RiskGONE project. The EIA guidelines and tools are intended to be used as one module in a multicriteria decision support framework for risk governance of nanomaterials, but may also be used for a stand-alone ethical impact assessment.

Nanomaterials are new forms of materials with structures at sizes between 1 and 100 nanometres (a millionth of a millimetre). They can be particles, tubes, platelets or other shaped structures. Nanomaterials can be applied in many different products, ranging from medicine to solar panels. Researchers, governments and stakeholders have been concerned with potential risks for human health and the environment for decades. Also, how nanomaterials behave during the production, use and waste processing of the products they are included in has been investigated in Life Cycle Analysis. However, ethical issues which may be raised by the use of nanomaterials in those products are usually not investigated. In this article, the procedure for an ethical impact assessment described in the CEN Workshop Agreement CWA 17145-@:2017 (E) is adapted to nanomaterials. Users who want to perform this assessment are guided through the procedure by online tools. The guidelines and tools were tested on several case studies and discussed with stakeholders, who commented on the criteria which should be used and on who could use the tools. This results in recommendations for improving the guidelines and online tools.