Earlier this month, the Reuters news service (now part of Thomson Reuters) carried an article by Richard A. Liroff, "Nanomaterials: Why Your Company Should Sweat the Small Stuff", primarily aimed at management executives at companies using or contemplating using nanomaterials in their products or manufacturing processes.

Noting that nanomaterials present "the potential to yield extraordinary health, environmental, and other global social benefits", Liroff also notes, as with asbestos, the potential for nanomaterials to have "novel toxicity risks". Pointing out that regulatory agencies in Canada, California, and the EU are basically at the beginning stages of issuing regulations;  EPA is noted for having initiated "a handful of regulatory actions" but since most of these actions featured voluntary compliance rather than mandatory, their success rate is noted as "poor".

Mr. Liroff points out that corporate management will

need to exercise especially demanding due diligence to make sure you’re not taking on liabilities that you and your shareholders will come to regret.

With that in mind, Mr. Liroff poses several questions, largely focusing on suppliers of nanomaterials, that management should keep in mind while performing their due diligence and long term planning, including planning for the worst case scenario.

It’s important that management and shareholders ask these questions and heed the warnings

about the unknown and under-researched hazards of nanomaterials . . . . If these misgivings go unheeded, that would be tragic on multiple counts. Not only because the potential benefits from the burgeoning forms of nanotechnologies will founder and be lost on the shoals of public mistrust and rejection, but also because companies and their shareholders will see corporate financial values vaporize in the face of closed markets and possible litigation.

Liroff raised the specter of asbestos in this article and it’s important to learn from what happened – and is still happening, since litigation over the effects of asbestosis is still being filed, decades after asbestos was used in factories and consumer products – to avoid exposure to possible litigation and the lose of their investment by shareholders.