What are nanomolecules
Between opportunities and risks
Nanotechnologies are now used in many areas of life and industries: in medicine and electrical engineering, in motor vehicles, for surface coating, in paints and varnishes. They can also be found in consumer products such as cosmetics, suntan lotion, clothing textiles and sporting goods. Particularly against the background of the use of nanomaterials in consumer products, the question of the risks for consumers as well as for the environment during production, use and disposal, which has not yet been clarified, needs to be asked.
Until further scientifically based knowledge is available, potential hazards from certain nanomaterials and unbound or released nanoparticles to humans and the environment cannot be ruled out.
For this reason, nanotechnologies are rightly at the center of social discussions. The possible risks of nanomaterials depend on the release and behavior, the quantities and the type, shape and surface of the nanomaterials. For years there have been many discussions, initiatives and research projects on the most varied of aspects of the subject of nanotechnologies at international, European, federal and state level. Standardized test methods, analysis, release and effects are examined in a large number of projects, programs and studies. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the effects of these materials in order to be able to answer the many open questions when assessing the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials.
According to the Federal Environment Agency, nanomaterials consist of definable structural components on the order of 1 to 100 nanometers in at least one dimension. Nanoparticles are a subset of nanomaterials and have the stated order of magnitude in all three dimensions. Both natural and artificially produced ("anthropogenic") nanomaterials occur in the environment. Technically produced nanomaterials are used in nanotechnology. Most of the handling of nanomaterials has only been taking place for a few years. Experience from more than 20 years is available for only a few nanomaterials (e.g. carbon black).
The opportunities offered by nanotechnologies are seen in medicine, energy and environmental technology. Using them to optimize resource- and energy-efficient processes in production could relieve the environment and the climate - for example through more durable machine parts and optimized plant technologies.
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