Nanotechnology and Its Impact on Consumers


Elizabeth Nielsen, Ph.D.


Consumers Council of Canada (CCC)




Nanotechnology, one of the key emerging technologies of this century, has the potential to provide consumers with a number of significant benefits and profoundly affect all aspects of their lives. These include energy efficiency, pollution prevention and clean up, diagnosis and treatment of disease and safe food and water. Nano enhanced products may also play a major role in reducing risks such as injury in car crashes, fire and earthquake damage due to their increased strength, flame resistance and flexibility. While the benefits of these technologies appear almost limitless, they will only be realized if consumers are confident that any potential adverse effects of nanotechnologies are identified, studied and managed. Against this background of rapid development, commercialization and uncertainty, a number of issues have been identified and questions raised that need to be investigated and resolved.
- What are its impacts on human health over the short term and long term?
- What will be its impact on the environment?
- Can any adverse effects be minimized or repaired?
- What can be done to manage the technologies while regulatory oversight is being developed?
- How will it affect society in Canada and globally?
- Will those most in need of the new technology be able to access it?
The main challenge facing society is how to realize the societal benefits of nanotechnology while minimizing adverse impacts. This report explains for consumers what nanotechnology is, why the materials produced by the technology are different, what products contain nanomaterials, what is known about the benefits and risks associated with the materials, what gaps exist in the scientific knowledge, what is being done by governments, industry and the standards community to manage the new technology, and the concerns and knowledge of consumers about the new technology. The study is limited to nanotechnology and manmade nanomaterials used in products intended for consumers and the general public. It draws on a wide range of references and sources of information in an attempt to present a balanced overview of nanotechnology and the challenges to be faced by consumers and other interested parties.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

Contact information

Consumers Council of Canada
201-1920 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON  M4S 3E2
(416) 483-2696

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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