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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Fighting & Preventing Nanopollution


Although there is much to be done, the fight against nanopollution and its prevention are not exactly in the phase zero. At a given moment, we will see players competing with each other to see who implements the "best of the best practices". This momentum will be highly beneficial to strengthen and implement to a large extension the fight against nanopollution and its prevention. The environment and the people in the world will benefit greatly from this great spiral of sustainability.




Introduction

Following my article "The Roots of Nano-Fear Decoded", and a
fter I have addressed briefly the issue of "Nanopollution Revised", I start here an attempt to point out ways and propose solutions which I believe will help to combat effectively nanopollution.

An effective combat against nanopollution brings in the long term, several benefits:
  • Improvement of the quality of the environment;
  • Improvement of the quality of the biosphere;
  • Improvement of the public health;
  • A strong contribution to the dissipation of fear.
I identify three major groups of actions to combat effectively nanopollution:

  1. Strategic planning of actions to be implemented immediately or as soon as possible;
  2. Preventive actions against the increase in nanopollution;
  3. Actions to combat the nanopollution that already exists or to minimize the current levels of nanopollution to levels without great impact. 

Regarding point one, strategy, planning and strategic planning are obvious. If small actions need often a strategic planning, what to say about the combat against nanopollution?

Regarding points two and three, it is, at least to me, hard to separate both issues. The reason is that there is a lot to do. The need for effective measures is so huge, that in practice, each measure can be implemented for preventive purposes and also adapted for combating the nanopollution that already exists (or to minimize the current levels of nanopollution to levels without great impact).

Besides, I believe that it is just impossible to implement points two and three through a sequential way. It would not make sense. Therefore, these two points must be implemented simultaneously.


Strategic Planning of Actions to be Implemented Immediately or as Soon as Possible

A strategic planning of actions to be implemented immediately or as soon as possible requires, at least, the following issues (not necessarily by this order):
  • An intense, serious, comprehensive and constructive debate. The problem of nanopollution is relatively new. The approach to combat nanopollution requires new ideas, new concepts, new practices, new scientific and technological approaches. A discussion with the participation of players from different areas of expertise, under the auspices of a constructive atmosphere, may be the embryo of an effective strategy;
  • The definition of a chain of strategies and priorities to be implemented. Since there is much to be done (in both prevention and combat), it is essential to set priorities;
  • Definition of geographical areas of highest priority;
  • Definition which environmental media (air, water, soil) should be the subject of top priority;
  • Regulation. To my knowledge, regulation is already underway. It is necessary to continue, be strengthened, extended to all countries, be object of international consensus.


Preventive Actions Against The Increase in Nanopollution And Actions to Combat The Nanopollution That Already Exists or to Minimize The Current Levels of Nanopollution to Levels Without Great Impact

Preventive measures and actions to combat nanopollution require, at least, the following issues (not necessarily by this order):
  • The creation of a whole awareness and culture of best practices always under the auspices of an absolute transparency and high sense of responsibility. All people (actors and civil society) must be clearly and responsibly informed, using an accessible language and calling for positive and constructive actions. To hide the reality no longer results (did it ever worked?). Media campaigns must be created, targeting different audiences, carefully planned in order to be both transparent and calling for positive actions;
  • R&D. Since nanopollution is closely related to nanotoxicology, will be very useful that R&D covers the two aspects. Follow some aspects I consider important, among many others:
    • Intensive studies on nanocharacterization. I have to write this very clearly: nanoegineered nanoparticles are not necessarily nanopollutants. Some may be nanopollutants to the environment, others may be harmless to the environment and some may even be beneficial to the environment. Only intensive and detailed studies of nanocharacterization can demonstrate the degree of dangerousness (or the degree of benefit) of each nanoengineered nanoparticle to the environment, based on scientific evidence;
    • Verification of traceability. Much R&D is required as well as a whole platform of collaborative organizations and individuals in order to implement an effective verification of traceability of the nanoengineered nanoparticles which are harmful to the environment;
    • R&D of key-technologies to fight effectively, in a clean and safe way the nanopollutants that are already contaminating the environment and biosphere. I would not be surprised at all if it is demonstrated that nanotechnology may offer the best means to combat and prevent nanopollution;
    • R&D with the aim of all nanoengineered nanoparticles nanofabricated are biodegradable;
  • Practices related to risk. Practices related to risk necessarily involve the following three aspects (among many others): risk monitoring, risk detection and risk assessment. My proposal goes to the creation of a network of nanopollution observatories. I do not mean "a network watchdogs". Rather, I refer to observatories operated by highly qualified professionals, equipped with sophisticated computer technology, databases, GPS technology and operating with the aid of satellites. I mean observatories linked to external probes and sensors placed at critical locations, providing these observatories with real-time data. Therefore, these nanopollution observatories will operate with real-time risk monitoring, risk detection and risk assessment. This modus operandi, as I describe here, will allow the ability to send automatic warnings (or alerts) to the operating teams. The automatic warnings (or alerts) may be scaled in warning (or alert) levels, linked to pre-established protocols of measures to be triggered accordingly - all these observatories linked on a whole network;
  • Regulation. Once again, I believe that regulation has a role here which is crucial, fundamental and decisive: without regulation is simply not possible to carry out the prevention or combating nanopollution. The rules must be very clearly defined, with no gaps and no room for bad and/or ineffective practices. Unfortunately, regulation does not fall from a tree like a mature fruit. This concept is even more valid for new technologies and challenges. The regulation is built in stages, gradually, as the information arrives, is analyzed and conclusions are taken, matured and consolidated. New unforeseen situations arise and the cycle tends to repeat itself. Regulation must take into account all matters discussed above and many others. Some aspects must be considered more important, others less important. Since nanopollution affects the environment on a planetary scale, regulations must also require the participation and consensus of all countries. Regulations to combat and prevent nanopollution must involve experts and players from various sectors around the world, working in a collaborative context with the aim of building a better environment on a global scale. All countries must provide real-time data (not periodically) to a multinational organization to monitor compliance or infringement of the rules established. Measures must be studied to be applied in case of any country violating these regulations. Sanctions must be applied to infringing countries; 
  • Change of change of mindset, attitudes, habits and practices:
    • Education of professionals in the industry in changing processes and practices that facilitate the fight against nanopollution and its prevention. Once again, a whole wide culture of best practices needs to be strengthened, intensified, generalized and adopted as the best and the wisest option;
    • Education of populations in changing habits and practices that facilitate the fight against nanopollution and its prevention.


The Great Spiral of Sustainability

Some important steps have been taken. Although there is much to be done, the fight against nanopollution and its prevention are not exactly in the phase zero. Much hard work has already been developed in various fields (including regulation, nanocharacterization, 
risk monitoring, risk detection, risk assessment and others).

There is one aspect here that I consider very important to highlight. There is a vast and diversified whole chain of actors related to nanoscience and nanotechnology (I do not just mean only the industry and the scientific community).


It has been triggered somewhere in this chain the implementation of a culture of best practices. It is extremely important that this culture (still in the embryonic stage) is strategically maintained and strengthened in order to gain social impact. If this culture of best practices gains social impact, it will generate a kind of chain reaction of the whole chain of actors I just described above. This process will generate a highly positive effect that will gradually raise awareness in all persons and actors in this chain.

At a given moment, we will see players competing with each other to see who implements the "best of the best practices". This momentum will be highly beneficial to strengthen and implement to a large extension the fight again
st nanopollution and its prevention. The environment and the people in the world will benefit greatly from this great spiral of sustainability.


2 comments:

TAREK said...

I think through this post many of us will have better awareness about nano pollution and how to fight against.
My vision is to do so is by making the driving force to move towards more profit. Cost effectiveness and creation of jobs are the key elements to make the decision makers interested in new, safe, clean, better, easy and inexpensive nano technology. My idea to resolve all nano pollution is to implement Bio nano wet chemistry.

Luís Bastos said...

Dear Tarek, many thanks for your support and highly constructive comments. Best Regards. Luís

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