“Nanotechnology requires good research and objective information”
At the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Busan (South Korea), a number of workshops and presentations are being dedicated to nanotechnology. This is a technology that is new to the world of water, one that requires both good research into any associated risks and objective information, according to senior scientific researcher Jan Hofman of KWR Watercycle Research Institute. Nanotechnology is based on tiny particles (from 1 to 100 nanometres) which, on the one hand, are used as a tool in water treatment and, on the other, can lead to problems since they end up in drinking water.
Hofman is Chair of the Nano and Water Specialist Group of the International Water Association (IWA). In this capacity, he will be leading the workshop on ‘Understanding and managing nanotechnologies in water systems’. In this session he will be addressing the laws and regulations concerning nanotechnology. “Nanoparticles, that is, extremely small substance particles, behave differently from the bigger members of their family,” says Hofman. “For example, they have a relatively large surface, so that they can absorb more. This can be made use of, but it can also lead to problems. They are generally very reactive substances. If they end up in the wrong place, they can very quickly cause a wrong reaction and thus be harmful to people or the environment. Laws and regulations have to be attuned to this.”
How do we tell the public?
Nanotechnology is still hardly used in the treatment of water for water production. Nevertheless Hofman sees various possibilities. “There are already nanoparticle-containing membranes on the market that permit easier water flow-through, and therefore require less pressure and less energy. Nanoparticles can also absorb heavy metals and pharmaceuticals in the water. A third application possibility is the catalyzing of a chemical reaction that is needed to treat the water.” Hofman stresses that all the techniques require further research.
“How do we tell the public?” is a further question. How can one prevent, as in the case of genetically modified food, all sorts of tall stories from circulating? This requires that, in all of the research, the risks be clearly determined and that communication about them be objective, in Hofman’s view. “Within the Specialist Group, as well as within the Dutch NanoNextNL programme we are actively working on this.”
Workshops IWA Busan 2012
On Monday, 17 September, Jan Hofman will be leading two workshops and making a presentation on nanotechnology at the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Busan. You are warmly invited to attend any of these events. For more information, please contact Hans Ruijgers (0031 – 6 218 228 12).