In the science article “Nanotechnology risk perceptions and communication: emerging technologies, emerging challenges”, from the journal Risk Analysis: an Official Publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, the authors Pidgeon, Harthorn, and Satterfield address the risk perceptions of nanotechnologies. The nanotechnologies are among the new scientific approaches, such as information technology and biotechnology (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). The evolvement of nanotechnology has raised social concerns in the human society, regarding the benefits of nanotechnology, as well as its impacts on human health. The authors have discussed regarding the new conceptual and methodological challenges of risk perception of nanotechnology, including its diversity, intangible and unfamiliar nature of nanotechnology, and ethics underlying nanotechnology debates.
Nanotechnology refers to a new technology that enables scientists to fabricate, manipulate, and control various materials at an atomic level (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). This technology derives from the persistent developments within biochemistry and physical chemistry, metrology, quantum physics, and material sciences. Engineers and scientists show interest in the fundamental electrical or chemical properties of materials that undergo changes in the range of 100 nanometers and smaller. The changes in properties have led scientists to predict new advances within the fields of engineering and science over many years into the future. Alongside the desires for the success of advances in nanotechnology, the development of this new technology also raises the concern of possible novel risks and uncertainties. If common objects portray enhanced or different electrical or chemical properties when scientists fabricate them at the atomic scale, the changes can lead to unanticipated environmental effects on human health (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). Therefore, it has been necessary to understand people’s perception and acceptance of nanotechnologies.
Royal Academy of Engineering and the U.K. Royal Society produced a report, which depicts that individuals should consider materials as new chemicals when the materials are in their nano form (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). This is necessary for the in-depth investigation of toxicology risks of the materials, as well as for the purposes of regulation. The report highlighted the significance of understanding the public’s perception and acceptance of nanotechnologies. Implementation of strong regulations is necessary before the development and application of nanotechnologies, which will allow scientists and the nonprofessionals to address risks and uncertainties of nanotechnology (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). Researchers have employed qualitative and quantitative approaches to study and understand nanotechnology risk perception in detail. However, researchers have encountered a number of methodological and conceptual challenges.
The first challenge is that the nanotechnologies and their applications are extremely diverse. The application of the nanotechnologies involves a variety of materials, products, and processes. Therefore, making a singular categorization about these technologies will be misleading. The significance for nanotechnology risk perception is its application in the areas like energy, food, or health. This will determine how individuals construct the benefits and risks of various nanotechnologies, and judge their acceptability. The second challenge in the study is the intangible and unfamiliar nature of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is a new approach that has not yet undergone significant development. Such technologies deal with objects in their nano form, which makes the new technologies intangible and unfamiliar. The third issue of studying the perceptions of nanotechnology is ethics underlying nanotechnology debates. The perceptions raise ethical questions and a wider value over nanotechnology’s toxicology and risk assessment. Ethical consequences include the regulatory control, which government exercises, such as labeling the nanotechnology products (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011). The authors of this article reviewed eighteen projects regarding the study of nanotechnology risk perceptions.
In conclusion, it has been evident from the article that the study of the risk perceptions of nanotechnologies encounters a number of challenges. Some of the challenges include diversity of nanotechnology, its intangible and unfamiliar nature, and ethics underlying scientific debates. This is because nanotechnology is a new science that has not undergone sufficient developments due to inadequate research. Because of inadequate research of nanotechnology, it is not advisable to use it even when scientists present its significant applications to human society (Pidgeon, Harthorn, & Satterfield, 2011).