Nanotechnology is a highly innovative field of development that researches and uses structures that are 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Nanotechnology makes it possible to produce materials with completely new properties, benefits and functions for a wide variety of applications.
Nanotechnology offers many opportunities for us. In our Chemicals business, we can use nanoscale materials to develop products with new functions and properties – thus increasing, for example, efficiency in terms of resource and energy use. In our Pharmaceuticals business, we work with external partners to explore the use of nanomaterials to improve therapeutic options. Within the scope of joint European research projects, we are currently also investigating the suitability of nanoparticles as vehicles for active pharmaceutical ingredients.
However, the special structure of nanoparticles can also involve risks. We utilize the new technology only with the greatest care. We take into account Group-wide requirements for safety as well as environmental and health protection, employing our existing processes and systems for product safety. We abide by the precautionary principle and take nanomaterial safety issues seriously.
At the end of 2008, we instituted our Group-wide "Use and Handling of Nanomaterials" policy; this document governs the handling of nanomaterials, whether used in pharmaceutical and chemical laboratories, production plants, filling plants, or warehouses.
We also provide our customers with information on the proper handling of nanomaterials, for example during transport, processing, storage, and disposal.
In manufacturing and processing products, we pay strict attention to compliance with all statutory regulations and other applicable standards, such as the of the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin – BAuA) as well as the German Chemical Industry Association (Verband der Chemischen Industrie – VCI).
Both internally and externally, we are constantly engaged in an exchange regarding the opportunities and risks of nanotechnology. In the 2011-2012 period, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany established an internal nano-coordination group consisting of analysts, researchers, toxicologists, safety experts, and experts from other relevant areas of the company. We also maintain a continuous dialogue with other companies, associations and regulatory agencies, such as in the nano-coordination group of the Technology and Environment (Technik und Umwelt) committee of the VCI, and in the Responsible Production and Use of Nanomaterials group, a technology working group of (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) and the VCI.