A View from Erika Jonietz

A Little Insurance Problem for Nanotech

Several recent research studies have highlighted the uncertainties about the health and environmental risks associated with nanotechnology. Now the insurance industry is taking notice of those uncertainties: major Swiss reinsurer (insurance for the insurance companies) Swiss Re has issued a…

  • May 28, 2004

Several recent research studies have highlighted the uncertainties about the health and environmental risks associated with nanotechnology. Now the insurance industry is taking notice of those uncertainties: major Swiss reinsurer (insurance for the insurance companies) Swiss Re has issued a report suggesting that insurance companies may want to take a second look at covering products manufactured using nanotechnology until more is known about any possible side effects.

The recommendation is in line with Europe’s traditional “wait and see” approach regarding the adoption of potentially risky new technologies (genetically modified crops, anyone?) versus the headlong rush into new fields more typical in the U.S. As Swiss Re points out in an analysis on their website, “The insurance industry is concerned because scientific evaluations of potential risks for human health and the environment are few and remain inconclusive.”

The company isn’t looking to stymie progress in the field, though; the report goes on to say, “The only way to prevent a polarized debate about nanotechnology, which may slow down future research and economic growth in this field, is to find a common approach to lessen the uncertainty and to provide some answers for pressing questions concerning potential nanotoxicity and pollution issues.” Good advice for anyone in the field, scientist, businessperson, or insurer.

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