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July 15, 2022

Austrian Academy of Sciences Publishes NanoTrust Dossier on Advanced Materials

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has published a NanoTrust Dossier entitled “Advanced Materials.” According to the dossier, advanced materials are “materials or material combinations with improved, novel or unique functionalities or properties” and represent a broad class of materials that include semiconductors, biomaterials, and nanomaterials. The dossier states that in many cases, novel materials offer solutions to environmental problems, e.g., by saving energy and materials because of lighter weight, and they can contribute to “a sustainable development of the environment, economy, and society.” The dossier notes that novel materials and/or new functionalities are also associated with uncertainties regarding human health and the environment. As a result, it is important to highlight safety-relevant aspects at an early stage and to identify potential risks in accordance with the precautionary principle. Because of the complexity of advanced materials, new approaches, such as the concepts of “safe by design” (SbD) and “safe and sustainable by design” (SSbD), are required to gain all the necessary knowledge regarding their safety. The dossier concludes that “[a]t present, it is still unclear whether all advanced materials are covered by existing chemical safety regulations. It is therefore necessary to review relevant regulations and corresponding risk assessment tools in this context to anticipate and fill any potential loopholes.”