Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 88–109 | Cite as

Nanomaterial risk screening: a structured approach to aid decision making under uncertainty

  • Christian E. H. BeaudrieEmail author
  • Milind Kandlikar
  • Robin Gregory
  • Graham Long
  • Tim Wilson


The responsible development of new nanomaterials and nano-enabled products requires that potential risks are understood and managed before harms occur. Although quantitative and predictive tools for anticipating human health and environmental risk are in early stages of development, there is a clear need for screening methodologies to inform decision making related to nanomaterial risk management in regulatory agencies and industry. This paper presents the results of a two-day workshop with nanotechnology experts aimed at developing a risk-screening framework for nanomaterials. Drawing upon expertise in nanotoxicology, human exposure, environmental fate and transport, and structured decision making, participants developed a decision support framework relating key nanomaterial physicochemical and product characteristics to important hazard and exposure indicators. Application of the preliminary nano-risk-screening tool (NRST) to several test cases illustrates the utility of the approach for both identifying nanomaterial characteristics that drive risks and for highlighting opportunities to redesign products to minimize risks. This framework for aiding risk managers’ decisions under uncertainty provides the foundation for the development of a transparent and adaptable screening tool that can inform the management of potential risks.


Nanomaterials Nanotechnology Risk assessment Structured decision making Decision analysis 



We would like to thank the workshop participants Vincent Castranova, Yoram Cohen, John Fortner, Greg Goss, Günter Oberdörster, Sam Paik, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, and Navid Saleh for their time, patience, and insight during a very productive workshop process, and Terre Satterfield for her ongoing support throughout this research. Thank you as well to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB) and the Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology at University of California, Los Angeles (UC-CEIN) for their generous support, and to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for their support through an Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS). This work was supported by Coop. Agreement DBI-0830117 from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nano-technology; by Award 1231231 to Decision Research from the US National Science Foundation, Program in Decision Risk and Management Science; and by Coop. Agreements SES 0531184 and SES 0938099 from the NSF to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or the EPA. This work has not been subjected to EPA review, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Supplementary material

10669_2014_9529_MOESM1_ESM.doc (442 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 442 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian E. H. Beaudrie
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Milind Kandlikar
    • 1
    • 3
  • Robin Gregory
    • 4
  • Graham Long
    • 2
  • Tim Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Resources, Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Compass Resource Management LtdVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Liu Institute for Global IssuesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA

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