The rapidly developing field of nanotechnology is set to pose challenges for insurers when it comes to appropriate assessments of risk, according to a lawyer.
Henry Davis York partner Louise Cantrill says many different insurance policies may be triggered by risks associated with nanotechnology.
“Product liability is an obvious one, where consumers may be affected by an inadequately articulated risk or products may be subject to a recall notice,” Ms Cantrill wrote in an opinion piece titled Is nanotech changing the insurance industry's DNA?.
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation and manufacture of matter at the nanoscale, where one nanometre is one-billionth of a metre.
Ms Cantrill said its use lies in the fact that many substances exhibit different properties in their nano form than they do in their normal state, and is broadly applied across many sectors, including pharmaceuticals and medicine.
She noted that the use of nanotechnology in medicine gives rise to unique considerations in the area of medical malpractice, given its use in fields including diagnostics, imaging, treatment, surgery, tissue engineering and bionics.
Ms Cantrill warned that materials which are considered safe in their bulk form may not remain safe when broken down into smaller particles.
“Research suggests that some particles can have toxic effects on cells and organs when in their nano form,” she said.
“This has led to concerns over unforeseen effects which nano materials may have on the environment and, indirectly, on human health.
“In short, it may be that application is moving ahead of appropriate risk assessment.”