Consumers neutral on risks, benefits of nano

HOUSTON, Dec. 5, 2006 -- The largest and most comprehensive survey of public perceptions of nanotechnology products finds that U.S. consumers are willing to use specific nano-containing products even if there are health and safety risks when the potential benefits are high. The study also finds that U.S. consumers rate nanotechnology as less risky than everyday technologies like herbicides, chemical disinfectants, handguns and food preservatives.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), University College London (UCL) and the London Business School, is the largest survey yet conducted on public willingness to use commercial nanotechnology products. It appears in the December issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

"By some estimates, products containing nanotechnology already account for more than $30 billion in annual global sales, but there is concern that the public's fixation with nanotechnology's risks either real or imaged will diminish consumers' appetite for products," said lead researcher Steven Currall, a management and entrepreneurship expert who conducted the research while a faculty member at Rice and while at UCL and London Business School, where he currently holds academic appointments. "Measuring public sentiment toward nanotechnology lets us both check the pulse of the industry right now, and chart the growth or erosion of public acceptance in the future."

The research was based on more than 5,500 survey responses. The authors of the article developed the surveys, which were administered by Zogby International. The surveys defined nanotechnology as involving "human-designed materials or machines at extremely small sizes that have unique chemical, physical, electrical or other properties."

One survey polled consumers about how likely they would be to use four specific, nano-containing products: a drug, skin lotion, automobil

Contact: Jade Boyd
Rice University

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