Technology characterization and types of hazards

The task and methods of the prospective TA, therefore, are the "characterization of the technology."18 It is the question of which perhaps positive ef

18 The "technology characterization" approach utilized here as a prospective TA method is not any newer than the "reckoning with the unknown" mentioned in the previous footnote, i.e., dealing with safety factors. For the technology characterization as well, there are methodical parallels in the analysis of hazardous substances that have an already long established tradition. The "characterization of the (hazardous) properties of substances" (the so-called "hazard characterization" as an important step in risk assessment) concentrates on the problematic toxicological and ecotoxicological properties of substances. For risk management that is intended to implement the results of the risk assessment at the governmental and/or company level in preventative or safety measures, two types of substance properties have become especially relevant. These are, first, the CMR substances, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic properties (the hormone-like effects are increasingly included in the subcategory "reproduction toxicity"), the presence of which leads to direct management consequences -even before an exposure assessment; second, the properties that are particularly important for the likelihood of an exposure, such as volatility, solubility in water or fat, and particularly the ecological aspects: mobility, persistence (minimally degradable in the environment) and bioaccumulation (accumulation in fects and potentials, but also dangers and risks, can be expected or already deduced from the characterization of nanotechnology. For this purpose, it is particularly helpful to look more closely at the qualities that make the new technology so interesting, i.e., the basis for its presumed potential for wide-ranging innovation or even a revolution in the way we live. There is good reason to believe that this technological potential and potency will not only have positive effects, but could also become a source of undesired secondary effects and problems resulting from its implementation. In particular:

1. The potency and degree of intervention of the technology. In assessing the potency and degree of intervention, one must, for example, consider the extent to which the corresponding technology affects the fundamental linkages and steering mechanisms in technical, biological, and environmental systems and then the effect of a corresponding potency and extension of space-time action chains. It is a question of the relationship of the technology and how it can be classified in comparison to other especially potent technologies and therefore possible "risk technologies." For especially potent technologies, one most likely must use the following technologies as a comparison in risk assessment and risk management: nuclear energy, with its catastrophic potential and the problems associated with the disposal of radioactive waste; the chemistry of hazardous substances, including the release of extremely mobile and persistent substances (for example, CFCs); and finally, the release of genetically modified organisms capable of survival.

2. The "new effects" attainable with the help of technology: In assessing these new possibilities, it becomes a matter of the extent to which the technology "only" improves or strengthens already known possibilities and effects and whether, or how, it truly can effect something new and never before seen. If these "new effects" are qualitatively not too intrusive, but at the same time open up a great many new fields of application, such that cumulative effects can be anticipated in the course of a most likely massive application, it is then advisable to instead use laser or computer technology and/or the so-called "new materials" for risk assessment and risk management.

3. The versatility of the technology with regards to possible effects as well as possible areas of application. The assessment touches on the question as to the extent to which one is dealing with a "key technology" and/or the food chain). According to the plans of the European Commission (Europäische Kommission 2001; Europäische Kommission 2003), in the future very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances (vPvB) will require an approval process - even without a substantiating impact model.

"fundamental innovation."19 Depending on the extent to which this might be the case, the technology is most likely comparable to information and communications technology or modern biotechnology.

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