Insurance industry looking for more data on nanotechnology risks

Last September we wrote that one insurer would “no longer insure against bodily injury, property damage, or personal and advertising injury related to the actual, alleged, or threatened presence of or exposure to nanotubes or nanotechnology in any form.” Now Christine Peterson passes along this item from Rhitu Chatterjee writing in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology, which notes that the exclusion has disappeared from the company’s web site, and then goes on to report how carefully insurers are watching nanotechnology. From “Insurers scrutinize nanotechnology“:

On September 24, 2008, the U.S. insurance company Continental Western Group (CWG) issued a statement noting that it would exclude nanotubes and nanotechnology from its coverage. The statement has since disappeared from the CWG website, and fears of similar decisions by other insurance companies are as yet unrealized. But although CWG’s decision to exclude nanotechnology was criticized by many as hasty and ill-informed, experts note that it represents the increasing concern among insurers about the emerging risks of nanotechnology.

“Nanotechnology is a big problem because the technology is moving much faster, as we all know, than information on health and environmental safety,” says Robert Blaunstein of Nanotechnology Risk Management, a firm that advises industries, insurers, and investors on how to best manage the risks of nanotechnology.…

Despite several studies suggesting potential harm from some materials, the general consensus, as illustrated by a recent report by the National Research Council, is that risk of nanotechnology is poorly understood and risk research is grossly underfunded.…

Nanotechnology is an “enabling technology”, Blaunstein points out. For the most part, it will improve products, which means better business for insurers, he says. “If [insurers] learn more about it, learn more on how to manage it, I think clearly they would be in a better position to provide insurance,” he adds. And that is already happening, he says. Insurers are already carefully watching nanotechnology.


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