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.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.