OCTOBER 27, 2006





Santa Barbara, Calif. – Two Bren School professors and four Bren graduate students played key roles in producing a groundbreaking new study on environmental health and safety (EHS) practices in the burgeoning global nanotechnology industry.

The first of two reports resulting from the study was released on Oct. 18 by the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON), which provided $55,000 to support the research. ICON is a coalition of academic, industrial, governmental, and non-governmental organizations administered by Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN).

The report documents Phase I of the work, essentially a review of previous and ongoing efforts around the world to catalog EHS practices in the nanotechnology industry. The researchers found that while some cataloguing of practices had occurred or was underway, information was either not freely available to the public, was gathered in a limited geographical area, or would not be available for some time. These findings reinforced the importance of the second phase of this study toward meeting an important demand.

Patricia Holden, Bren associate professor of environmental microbiology, served as PI of the research team. Co-PIs were Bren associate professor of corporate environmental management Magali Delmas, research anthropologist and co-director of UCSB’s NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS-UCSB) Barbara Herr Harthorn, and UCSB professor of sociology and global and international studies Richard Appelbaum. Bren Master of Environmental Science & Management (MESM) students Gina Gerritzen, Leia Huang, Keith Killpack, and Maria Mircheva, and UCSB Sociology Ph.D. student Joe Conti were researchers. The project served as the master’s group project – the Bren School’s practice- and solution-focused equivalent of a thesis – for the four MESM students.

Nanomaterials – engineered materials at dimensions of 1 to 100 nanometers, which are currently used in the manufacture of cosmetics, clothing, sports equipment, coatings, and electronics – “present opportunities to create new and better products,” say the authors, “but also present new challenges for measuring, monitoring, managing, and minimizing contaminants in the workplace and the environment.”

Further, particles at the nanoscale take on entirely new physical properties, making their potential dangers to humans and the environment mostly unknown. Lacking a consolidated understanding of current health, environmental, and stewardship practices in nanomaterials manufacturing, ICON issued a request for proposals to create and conduct a survey to catalog current industry practices.

“In this first phase of the study,” says Holden, “we were laying the foundation for the second phase, during which we surveyed industries to hear their reported, ongoing, and planned practices.”

 “We had to find out what the current state of knowledge was,” says Gerritzen, who co-wrote much of the initial project proposal with Killpack. “We had to pinpoint how we could contribute to the knowledge base."

The Phase II report, to be released in mid-November, will provide the results of a survey that was designed and conducted after the Phase I review and represents the first-ever attempt to compile a global inventory of current workplace health, safety, and product stewardship practices in the nanotechnology industry.


Click the link to see a copy of the ICON report, or visit the ICON website at

To arrange an interview with Dr. Holden or other Bren School researchers, please contact Bren media liaison James Badham by phone at (805) 893-5049, or by e-mail at

For interviews with Dr. Harthorn or the other CNS members of the research team, contact Dr. Harthorn directly at, or by phone at (805) 893-3350.

To visit the Bren School nanotechnology group project, go to