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Taking a precautionary approach to nanotechnology

Author(s): Dónal P. O’Mathúna

Journal: Nanotechnology Development
ISSN 2038-9671

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: e6;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: precautionary principle | risk | nanoethics.

Nanotechnology is developing at a rapid pace. Concerns have been raised about the risks nanotechnology may carry for human health and the environment. The precautionary principle has developed within environmental ethics as a way to reduce the risk of harm with emerging technologies. It has been incorporated into a number of documents addressing nanotechnology risks, including the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research. The central features of the precautionary principle are reviewed here. These include addressing situations of scientific uncertainty and serious or irreversible harm, developing a proportionate response, and having reasonable grounds for concern. These factors will be applied to carbon nanotubes to demonstrate how the precautionary principle can lead to practical guidelines during the development of nanotechnology.
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