Potential Legal Avenues for Managing the Environmental Risks of Nanotechnology

  • Wilson EngelmannEmail author
  • Haide Maria Hupffer
  • Raquel Von Hohendorff


We are on the verge of a nanotech revolution but to date almost no State has legislated effectively to manage the potential environmental risks that might be generated by nanoparticles. Instead, self-regulation and the creation of norms by other social actors have emerged to fill the gap. The temporality of these new forms of regulation—and the ability to deal with future risks—represent challenges for the legal order, which must intervene to grant legal effect to new regulatory production. By analysing publications from ISO TC229 (on nanotechnology) and the comprehensive principles regarding nanotechnologies and materials advanced by NanoAction (a project of the International Centre for Technology Assessment), this chapter proposes a new self-regulatory model to manage nanotechnological risks and serve as legal guidance for researchers, laboratories, research centres and nanoscale industries. Considering a range of social and environmental factors, the model systematically links the NanoAction principles to existing rules and principles in Brazilian law.



The authors would like to thank the following people. We are grateful to the various interviewees for the time they took to talk to us about their work, the anonymous referees for their very helpful suggestions, and various people at conferences, seminars, and so on, over the last few years for their comments on previous versions of this chapter. We are particularly grateful to the students and researchers of the JUSNANO Research Group (Brazil) and the Centro de Investigação e Desenvolvimento sobre Direito e Sociedade (CEDIS), the Faculdade de Direito da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal) and the Instituto Jurídico Portucalense (IJP), and the Universidade Portucalense, Porto (Portugal).


This research has been conducted by the authors in the context of the following research projects:

1. ‘Nanotechnologies as an example of innovation: in search of structuring elements to evaluate the benefits and risks produced from the nanoscale in the scenario of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and of the Ethical, Legal and Social Impacts–ELSI’, Project Support Research/Call CNPq/MCTI (Brazil) n. 25/2015 Humanities, Social and Applied Social Sciences.

2. ‘Observatory on the Legal Impacts of Nanotechnologies: structuring essential elements for the development of dialogue between the Sources of Law from regulatory indicators to research and industrial production based on the nano scale’, Support for Research Projects/MCTI/CNPq/Universal 14/2014 (Brazil).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilson Engelmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Haide Maria Hupffer
    • 2
  • Raquel Von Hohendorff
    • 1
  1. 1.Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS)São LeopoldoBrazil
  2. 2.Universidade FeevaleNovo HamburgoBrazil

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