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Manufactured nanomaterials by 2030

Health and safety consequences in small businesses in France

In 2014, INRS carried out its second foresight study which focused on the development of nanomaterials by 2030 and the consequences on safety and health in small businesses in France.

Because of their varied and often original properties, manufactured nanomaterials provide many possibilities. Very large budgets are allocated to research and development throughout the world.

 

The number of companies that make or use nanomaterials increases every day. However, knowledge on the toxicity of manufactured nanomaterials is still fragmented, as is data on occupational exposure. In this context, finding and proposing effective prevention methods with regard to manufactured nanomaterials is essential but delicate.

 

INRS, in collaboration with several partners (ANSES, Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées, Santé publique France (ex-InVS), Université de Bretagne sud, Institut Jean-Lamour - Université de Lorraine, SUVA et CARSAT Alsace-Moselle and AISS), conducted a foresight study on the development of manufactured nanomaterials by 2030 and the safety and health consequences in small businesses in France. Four scenarios were envisioned.

 

These possible future outcomes should lead to a better apprehension of the risks associated with these promising materials.

This approach from an occupational health perspective is original. Until presently, this type of study has targeted rather the “technological aspects” of nanomaterials.

The four scenarios presented, and their occupational health and safety consequences (for SMEs in particular), are as follow:

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
  • 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. 
     

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
  • Slow development, confined to a few strategic sectors deemed priorities

In this context, the State is confined to strictly applying the precautionary principle. New regulations leading to banning manufacture and use of certain nanomaterials have therefore come into force. Public occupational risk prevention structures are generally not welcome in companies; in addition, their resources and response capacity are very limited.
 

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 rationalised and targeted at growth sectors
  • 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.
     

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
  • 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.

 

The summary of results is now available in English.

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Last update on 26/04/2017