Download PDF
May 30, 2017

France Publishes English Summary of Study on Development of Nanomaterials by 2030

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On April 26, 2017, France’s National Research and Safety Institute (INRS) published a press release announcing the availability of an English summary of a foresight study conducted in 2014 on the development of nanomaterials by 2030 and the consequences on safety and health in small businesses in France.  Four scenarios were envisioned:

(1)       Strong and successful commitment from both state and industry:  massive development;

  • Economy driven by innovation;
  • Strong state involvement;
  • Marked interest by companies;
  • Controlled health and environment risks;
  • An enthusiastic society;
  • Massive, global development; and
  • Suitable prevention means are generally set up in companies but there is a residual risk of transient exposure or accidents in poorly controlled work situations and difficulties for the ageing population to adapt to the pace of change;

(2)       Informed rejection by society:  development in a few strategic sectors:

  • An economic and political debacle;
  • Destruction of the industrial fabric;
  • Distrust of innovation by society;
  • Uncertain health and environment risks; and
  • Slow development, confined to a few strategic sectors deemed priorities;

(3)       Industry in the driving seat:  development in growth sectors only:

  • A morose economic situation;
  • Very limited political support;
  • A certain disinterest by society;
  • Health and environment risks not assessed;
  • Development heavily supported by manufacturers, but rationalized and targeted at growth sectors; and
  • Prevention of occupational risks is strictly handled by companies and is mainly oriented towards preserving the means of production. The response, mostly insurance-focused, is based on compensation and not on prevention;

(4)       Sustained regional will:  development based on local skills:

  • A strong and prosperous Europe of the regions;
  • Massive support in certain regions;
  • A peaceful and indifferent society;
  • Health and environment risks poorly studied and therefore not anticipated;
  • Development based on local skills: creation of clusters of excellence; and
  • Occupational risks are generally managed by local structures located within clusters of competitiveness. These regional entities apply the rules decided at European level, based on co-management between employer associations and employee unions.

According to INRS, the possible future outcomes “should lead to a better apprehension of the risks associated with these promising materials.”  The foresight study is one of three exercises that INRS has conducted to date.  In 2017, INRS intends to begin a fourth exercise that will address the circular economy and its consequences on occupational safety and health.