At today’s session of the International Conference on Nanotechnology Occupational & Environmental Health & Safety in Cincinnati, Ohio, Altairnano President and CEO — Alan Gotcher — and Health Safety and Environment Facilitator — Tabitha Maher — both gave presentations regarding Altairnano’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) efforts centered around the company’s use of nanomaterials.
Altairnano is an 80 employee company with facilities in Reno, Nevada, and Anderson, Indiana. The company uses conglomerates of sphere-shaped metal oxide nanoparticles in the production of its products aimed a four (4) markets: power systems; pigments; drug campaigns; and performance materials.
Gotcher made a convincing business case for the early implementation of EHS programs by smaller, start-up nanotechnology companies in order to attract and maintain the best talent, address public perceptions of nanotechnology, prepare for possible product liability lawsuits, and to act before possible regulation hinders market entry of products. Gotcher indicated that in an effort to be highly proactive on nano-related EHS issues, Altairnano hired a full-time industrial hygienist approximately 18 months ago as its 31st employee, and budgets over $500,000 per year on EHS efforts. The company also opened its facilities to NIOSH for extensive ambient nanoparticle measurements, and used the resulting data to help structure the its EHS efforts. Gotcher advocated proactive, open, and honest communication with employees, third-parties, and the public about the various known and unknown risks surrounding Altairnano’s use of nanomaterials.
Maher provided insight regarding Altairnano’s EHS efforts that even start-up nanotechnology companies should consider implementing when faced with limited initial budgets. To this end, she explained the company’s extensive use of fume hoods, protective clothing, HEPA respirators, employee training, and workplace cleanliness efforts to reduce worker exposure. Maher drove home the point that every nanocompany can make at least some EHS-related efforts and should do so as early as possible as part of a good business model.
Gotcher and Maher also indicated that Altairnano had recently embarked upon its own animal toxicity studies to supplement its EHS efforts. Remarkably, all of these steps have been undertaken even though the company has yet to post a profit. Altairnano has a modest section on its website regarding its EHS efforts.