Illini Gadget Garage Closing Physical Location for Renovations, Hosting Pop-Up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center for student and staff owned electronic devices, will be closing its physical location (INHS Storage Building 3) for the summer on Monday, July 11, to allow for renovations associated with making the site compliant with ADA requirements. Renovations should be complete prior to the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester, and there will be a grand opening of the site at that time. Be sure to check the new Illini Gadget Garage web site, as well as its Twitter and Facebook accounts for details of the grand opening later in the summer.

We appreciate the ‘test pilots” who have come in this summer to work with us on their devices! To continue to serve the campus community during the renovation process, we will host pop-up clinics at various locations until the physical location is open for the public. Pop-up clinics will continue, even after the physical location is open, to make it more convenient for the campus community to practice sustainability through electronic product stewardship.

Two pop-up clinics are scheduled at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC; 1 Hazelwood Drive in Champaign), in the Stephen J. Warner Conference room:

  • Monday, July 11, from noon to 5 pm
  • Monday, July 18, from noon to 5 pm (Note: a Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium meeting will occur in the conference room from 1:30-2:30 PM; feel free to come early or stay after the meeting to work on your devices!)

If you plan to come to either of these clinics, we suggest you fill out our online diagnostic form ahead of time. This will allow volunteers to do some preliminary research on the problem you’re facing, and make use of your one-on-one time more efficient.

If your department, residence hall, or student organization would like to host a pop-up repair clinic, please fill out the “Host a Pop-Up Clinic” form to express your interest. We’ll be in touch to work out the details.

Students, faculty, and staff with any degree of technical skill–including none whatsoever–are invited to sign up as Illini Gadget Garage volunteers. We want to empower everyone to feel comfortable with the idea of troubleshooting and repairing the electronics they own, to keep them in service longer and thus, out of the waste stream. Even if you’ve never fixed anything before, you can be part of our process of coming together to solve problems. We also could use help with marketing, social media, arranging pop-up clinics, developing educational programs, and other tasks, so if this project intrigues you, come be part of it! Stop by one of the pop-up clinics, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch.

Illini Gadget Garage–Revised Summer 2016 Hours

We recently blogged about the Summer 2016 hours for the Illini Gadget Garage, in which our future “permanent location,” Illinois Natural History Survey Storage Building 3, will be open to assist folks who do not need ADA accommodation with device troubleshooting and repair.  But we have an update! Due to some changes in the schedules of student staff members, our hours are being revised. The new hours are:

  • Wednesdays 12 PM – 3 PM
  • Thursdays 5 PM – 8 PM
  • Fridays 12 PM – 3 PM

Use this Google map to find INHS Storage Building 3 (SB3). If you plan to visit us at SB3, or a future pop-up clinic, you might want to take a few minutes to fill out our diagnostic form. This provides staff with some basic information about your device and the issues you’re experiencing, so they can do a little research ahead of time, hopefully making your one-on-one time more productive.

We hope to see you there for repair!

Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark with white background

Illini Gadget Garage Summer 2016 Hours and Volunteer Opportunities

We’re pleased to announce that the Illini Gadget Garage will be open over the summer to assist “test pilots” with troubleshooting and repair for your small electronics and appliances with electronic components! Open hours for the summer are:

  • Tuesdays 11 AM – 2 PM
  • Wednesdays 5 PM – 8 PM
  • Fridays 12 PM – 3 PM

The Illini Gadget Garage is housed within the Illinois Natural History Survey Storage Building #3 (SB3); see this Google Map for directions.

Since SB3 is not yet ADA compliant, the space is open only so student staff and volunteers can work with “test pilots” –those who do not require accommodations for accessibility–so that they can gain experience with working with members of the public on troubleshooting and repair. If you require accommodation and would like to work with the Gadget Garage to repair a device, please email staff at illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com to arrange for an appointment in another accessible public space.

We will also be hosting “pop-up clinics” in accessible spaces around campus to better serve the community until our physical location has been renovated for accessibility. Be sure to follow the Gadget Garage on Facebook or Twitter to see announcements of pop-up clinics. If your department, RSO, or residence hall would like to host a pop-up clinic, please fill out our form to indicate your interest.

Whether you’re stopping by SB3 during open hours, or attending a pop-up clinic, you might want to take a few minutes to fill out our diagnostic form. This provides staff with some basic information about your device and the issues you’re experiencing, so they can do a little research ahead of time, hopefully making your one-on-one time more productive.

Whether you’re a student on campus for research or summer classes, or a faculty or staff member that enjoys tinkering, we hope you’ll consider volunteering with us! If you’re interested, fill out our contact form. If you’re technically inclined, your expertise can benefit others in our community! If you’re not at all technically inclined, but interested in sustainability and can help out with social media, networking, writing blogs or resource guides, etc., then you should also consider volunteering. The Gadget Garage is NOT just a project for techies! We want to empower everyone to feel comfortable with maintenance and repair of their devices, and to use and dispose of electronics more responsibly. So join us in this effort!

Tentative Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark

Illini Gadget Garage Hosts Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage is a collaborative repair program for student and staff owned electronic devices, funded by the UI Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), and administered by the Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the UI School of Art and Design, and the UI Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In a previous post, we discussed the fact that renovations are necessary to bring the Gadget Garage’s planned permanent home into ADA compliance. We’re still working with “test pilot” clients, who don’t require ADA accommodations, at the permanent location (INHS Storage Building 3). In case you haven’t check the Gadget Garage Facebook page or web page recently, Spring 2016 hours are Thursdays from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM and Fridays from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

In the meantime, to help ensure that we’re serving all members of our campus community, we’re hosting “pop-up” clinics at various locations across campus. Gadget Garage staff have established a partnership with the residence hall libraries and last week (on March 30 & 31) the first pop-up clinics were held at the PAR and Allen Hall residence hall libraries. Those two residence hall libraries are once again hosting pop-up repair clinics on Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7th, respectively. Hours for the PAR clinic (Wed.) are 6-8 PM; Allen Hall clinics are 7-9 PM. Stop by for assistance with troubleshooting, diagnosing issues, and minor repair. We’re hoping to have clinics in these two residence hall libraries fairly regularly (not necessarily weekly); ask at the libraries for more information, or monitor the Gadget Garage Facebook page for announcements.

In the meantime, if your campus organization or department is interested in hosting a pop-up clinic, please fill out our form to indicate your interest and provide a bit of basic information. Gadget Garage staff will then follow-up with you for scheduling.

If you’re planning to either attend a pop-up clinic or to stop by the permanent location during open hours, consider filling out our Diagnostic Form to provide information on the device and problem you’re wanting to address. This will give Gadget Garage volunteers some information to help them do a bit of research before you come so they’re better prepared to assist you and use your time efficiently.

If you have other general questions, or would like to become involved with the project as a volunteer, send an email to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. You don’t have to be a tinkerer or technologically inclined to assist in the collaborative repair process, plus there are other project tasks to which your skills could be applied (e.g. social media, marketing, recruitment of volunteers, scheduling clinics, writing iFixit repair guides, creating resource guides for common questions/problems, etc.). Plus, although this is primarily a student project, staff and faculty who enjoy repair are also welcome to volunteer and become part of the “fixer” community here on campus! Everyone has their own expertise and strengths, and we’ll all learn from each other as we come together to keep devices in service for as long as possible.

Tentative Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark

 

 

Illini Gadget Garage Update & Upcoming Consortium Meeting

At the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, the UI Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium met to discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project, which had received funding from the Student Sustainability Committee. The Illini Gadget Garage is a collaboration of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the UI School of Art and Design, and the UI Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and is focused on launching a repair center for student and staff owned electronic devices. This venture is meant to extend the useful life of products while providing experiential learning for students (through associated classes, volunteering, and participation in the iFixit Technical Writing Project), and empowering people to see do-it-yourself repair as a viable option for addressing minor damage and performance issues. You can read more about the project on the SEI web site, as well as a summary of the previous consortium meeting on the topic.

Classes are underway

ISTC was granted the use of Storage Building #3 by its sister survey, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the Prairie Research Institute, to house the Illini Gadget Garage. The space is well suited to the purpose, and two classes taught by project team member Martin Wolske are currently meeting in the space (Intro to Network Systems plus Informal Learning Spaces and Pedagogies). A course taught by team member William Bullock this semester has student teams working on various operational aspects of the Illini Gadget Garage, including development of a stand alone web site, development of an identifying mark and signage, design of tool kits and storage, envisioning the layout of the space, and working on a business plan for the future financial self-sustainability of the project. At the end of the semester, student concepts will be compiled into a book for the project team for consideration, further development, and use moving forward. Students in both Professors Bullock’s and Wolske’s classes are creating online repair guides as part of the iFixit Technical Writing Project, continuing UIUC participation, which began in 2014. (iFixit has also donated over $2000 worth of tools for use in the Gadget Garage.)

Tentative Illini Gadget Garage identifying mark
Identifying mark developed by Lu Lawrence, Amanda Henderson, and Ruchita Mandhre, as part of ARTD 591/391 with Professor William Bullock.

Space–the final frontier

Storage Building #3 has proved desirable in many ways, but as the project team worked with INHS staff, Facilities & Services, and other campus units to clear, rearrange, and upgrade the space for its new purpose, we discovered that it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The space had previously been used as an office/lab area, and such spaces are not required to have particular types of entryways, parking, etc., as long as no one working there requires such accommodations. However, in order to open the Gadget Garage to the public, it became clear that several upgrades were necessary, including pouring an accessible parking space, a sidewalk from a nearby curb cut, creation of a new doorway closer to the planned accessible parking, and some other minor interior changes. At first our project team saw this as a minor delay; we would continue to entertain “test pilot” clientele without need for accommodation in the space and plan to renovate before winter for a grand opening for everyone once upgrades were complete. Unfortunately, estimates for all of the work required came in at over $32,000–much more than we had anticipated, and which was available to us in the SSC grant and matching funds for space considerations. By the end of October 2015, it was clear that we needed to regroup.

Plan B: Test pilots needed and ‘pop-up’ clinics planned

Because classes are already meeting in the space, and because we need somewhere to store tools and equipment already obtained, our project team has arranged with INHS to continue using Storage Building #3 as a base of operations. In the meantime, we plan to continue working with “test pilots” in this space, so student volunteers can gain experience with working with the public, checking in patrons, and logging impacts (e.g. number of devices repaired, pounds diverted from the landfill through repair, etc.). So if ADA accommodations are not something you require and you have a device that needs repair, please do visit the Illini Gadget Garage during open hours (see http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/research/gadgetgarage.cfm for more information). To ensure that all members of our campus community can benefit from and participate in the Gadget Garage, we’re planning to host “pop-up” repair clinics at various locations around campus which are already accessible. The first clinic of this kind is scheduled for December 1 at the PAR library (more details to come soon; thanks to Bradley Irwin, Graduate Research Assistant, and Residence Hall Library Graduate Assistants Hailley Fargo and Cameron Riesenberger for arranging this!). Our project team will identify other locations for such clinics, and work to raise funds for the renovation of Storage Building #3 through donations and other grants. We’re happy to report that we recently received a donation of $5000 from HOBI International, which is a great start toward making the necessary upgrades!

How you can help

  • Join us at the next UI Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium meeting, at ISTC from 2:00 – 3:00 PM, Tuesday, November 17, 2015.
  • Bring ideas for “pop-up” locations, fundraising, and even alternative spaces (we love SB#3, but if you know of an alternative space that is already accessible, we’d like to hear about it).
  • If you can’t come to the consortium meeting on 11/17, but have ideas as described above, contact Joy Scrogum.
  • If you’d like to volunteer at a “pop-up” clinic or at the Gadget Garage itself, contact Martin Wolske or Brad Irwin.
  • Bring in a device for collaborative repair during open hours at Storage Builidng #3 (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.), to give our repair crew some practice (and hopefully breathe new life into your gadget!).
  • Donate to the SEI Various Donors Fund, and specify “Illini Gadget Garage” in the “Comments or Other Instructions” field on the online donation form. Small donations add up! You or your organization will be recognized on the SEI web site, the stand alone Gadget Garage site (once it’s up and running), and receive an acknowledgement from both SEI and the UI Foundation. If you prefer to donate by check rather than via the online form, contact Joy Scrogum for instructions.

The tagline being used currently on signage at SB#3 is “Illini Gadget Garage: Repairing & Demystifying Technology for a More Just and Sustainable World.” Our campus community is working together to make this a reality. Join the campus consortium on 11/17 to be a part of it!

Illini Gadget Garage Hours Set, Courses Begin

Illini Gadget Garage project team
Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch. Pictured (left to right): William Bullock, professor of industrial design, Joy Scrogum, coordinator of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, and Martin Wolske, research scientist and adjunct faculty member in library and information science.

In case you missed it, check out the UI News Bureau coverage of the Illini Gadget Garage project. Thanks to Jodi Heckel for helping spread the word!

As noted in this article, the Gadget Garage will open to the general campus community for repair assistance on Monday, September 14. Fall hours will be Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Professors Martin Wolske and William Bullock are also teaching courses associated with the Gadget Garage, with classes beginning this week. Professor Bullock’s class is a multidisciplinary effort with the following course objectives:

  • Collaborate with peers from business, design & technology in planning and startup
  • Experience project management, leadership and team building
  • Create a business and marketing plan to insure success going forward
  • Plan and implement new branding, advertising and wayfinding strategies
  • Participation in the iFixit Technical Writing Project (a unique portfolio piece)
  • Knowledge to create more sustainable designs and extend product life cycles

Professor Bullock is particularly interested in having students with interests in marketing and engineering participate alongside their peers from industrial design. A few seats are still available; interested students should see the course flyer and contact Professor Bullock directly with questions. Professor Wolske’s Introduction to Network Systems class will be meeting in the Gadget Garage space, and students will have opportunities to work on service learning projects associated with this project for the course.

See the Illini Gadget Garage page on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site for more information on the courses and the project itself, including a map of its location. General questions can be addressed to Joy Scrogum.

Illini Gadget Garage Discussion, Wednesday, August 5th

laptop and stethoscope
Photo by jfcherry on flickr. CC by 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Members of the UI sustainable electronics campus consortium and other interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, Aug. 5th at ISTC to learn more about and discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project. The project team will be meeting to discuss current progress (location, classes to be associated with the project, etc.) and next steps.  Anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring lunch along with you. Because this meeting will involve a group discussion, rather than formal presentations, it will not be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar.

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, this project involves the establishment of a collaborative repair center on campus for student and staff-owned electronic devices. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2015/06/30/illini-gadget-garage-project-will-extend-useful-life-of-student-and-staff-electronics/ for further information. For those unable to attend, minutes will be posted to the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site. At any time, please feel free to contact Joy Scrogum with any questions about the project, or to discuss ways to become involved. A page devoted to the project will be added to the SEI web site in the near future.

Illini Gadget Garage Project Will Extend Useful Life of Student and Staff Owned Electronics

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and SEI are pleased to announce that a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign consisting of SEI coordinator Joy Scrogum (ISTC), William Bullock (Art + Design), Martin Wolske, and Jon Gant (both of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) has recently received funding from the Student Sustainability Committee for a project entitled “Illini Gadget Garage: Education through Electronic Product Life Extension.” This seed funding will be used to launch a center where UI students and staff will bring their personal electronic devices for assistance with assessment and repair. The center will be called the Illini Gadget Garage. Using the same “collaborative repair” model employed at the campus bike shop and MakerSpace Urbana’s computer Help Desk, clients with devices in need of repair/troubleshooting will work together with Gadget Garage student staff and volunteers to perform the necessary device assessment and maintenance activities. Depending upon the situation, activities may range from guidance on how to make your computer/device run faster to actual repair and replacement of components. Continue reading “Illini Gadget Garage Project Will Extend Useful Life of Student and Staff Owned Electronics”

Special Edition of Challenges Journal on E-waste Issues Re-Opened, Submissions Due 12/31/15

challenges-logoBack in 2013, ISTC Emerging Technologies Resource Specialist and current SEI Coordinator, Joy Scrogum, and ISTC Affiliated Faculty Scientist, William Bullock, served as guest editors for a special issue of the journal Challenges, entitled “Electronic Waste–Impact, Policy and Green Design.” 

The journal’s editors recently received multiple requests to reopen this special issue. Scrogum and Bullock have once again agreed to serve as editors.

From the issue’s rationale:

“Electronics are at the heart of an economic system that has brought many out of poverty and enhanced quality of life. In Western society in particular, our livelihoods, health, safety, and well being are positively impacted by electronics. However, there is growing evidence that our disposal of electronics is causing irreparable damage to the planet and to human health, as well as fueling social conflict and violence.

While global demand for these modern gadgets is increasing, policy to handle the increased volumes of electronic waste has not kept pace. International policy governing safe transfer, disposal, reclamation, and reuse of electronic waste is nonexistent or woefully lacking. Where laws do exist about exporting and importing hazardous waste, they are routinely circumvented and enforcement is spotty at best. While European Union countries lead the way in responsible recycling of electronic and electrical devices under various EU directives, most industrialized nations do not have such policies. In the U.S., for example, most electronic waste is still discarded in landfills or ground up for scrap.

It is imperative that we consider how green design practices can address the growing electronic waste problem. This special issue is meant to do just that and spur discussions on how electronic products can become greener and more sustainable.”

If you are interested in submitting a paper for this special issue, please send a title and short abstract (about 100 words) to the Challenges Editorial Office at challenges@mdpi.com, indicating the special issue for which it is to be considered. If the proposal is considered appropriate for the issue, you will be asked to submit a full paper. Complete instructions for authors and an online submission form for the completed manuscripts are available on the Challenges web site at http://www.mdpi.com/journal/challenges/special_issues/electronic-waste#info. The deadline for manuscript submissions is December 31, 2015.

New on the SEI Website: Spring 2015

Check out the following updates and resources added this spring on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site. If you have any questions, or would like to make suggestions for additions to the SEI site, please contact Joy Scrogum. Don’t forget to subscribe to the SEI Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay current with sustainable electronics issues!

New “Lessons” Page:

We’ve added a “Lessons” page to the “Education” section of our site for interactive lessons on various sustainable electronics topics. Check out “The Secret Life of Electronics” to explore some of the environmental and social impacts of electronic products.

SEI Publications:

Teaching Sustainability with Electronics. January 2015.

Updates to Law & Policy pages:

A link to the controversial Executive Order 13693 (Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade) has been added to the U.S. Federal Legislation page. Effective March 19, 2015, this executive order is notable in its lack of any mention of the EPEAT registry tied to federal procurement preferences. For nearly a decade prior, 95% of electronics purchased by federal agencies were required to be EPEAT registered. The omission was met with criticism and concern from environmental and sustainability advocates, but the Green Electronics Council, which administers the EPEAT registry, has expressed confidence that federal agencies will continue to use the registry as a purchasing tool, since doing so is not precluded by the new executive order. UPDATE, 6/18/15: Implementation instructions for this Executive Order, dated June 10, 2015, make it clear that EPEAT is the only existing tool to achieve the electronic stewardship mandates of the order. This allays the fears of those who thought the omission of direct mention of EPEAT in the order would lead to weakening or failure as a tool for environmentally preferable purchasing. For more information, see the Resource Recycling article Federal government sticks with EPEAT after all.

A link to IL HB 1455 was added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill has passed the state House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of Governor Bruce Rauner. Synopsis As Introduced: “Amends the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act. Provides that a manufacturer may count the total weight of a cathode ray tube device, prior to processing, towards its goal under this Section if all recyclable components are removed from the device and the cathode ray tube glass is managed in a manner that complies with all Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regulations for handling, treatment, and disposition of cathode ray tubes. Provides that, for specified categories of electronic devices, each manufacturer shall recycle or reuse at least 80% (was at least 50%) of the total weight of the electronic devices that the manufacturer sold in that category in Illinois during the calendar year 2 years before the applicable program year. Provides that a registered recycler or a refurbisher of CEDs and EEDs for a manufacturer obligated to meet goals may not charge individual consumers or units of local government acting as collectors a fee to recycle or refurbish CEDs and EEDs, unless the recycler or refurbisher provides (i) a financial incentive, such as a coupon, that is of greater or equal value to the fee being charged or (ii) premium service, such as curbside collection, home pick-up, drop-off locations, or a similar methods of collection. Provides that, in program year 2015, and each year thereafter, if the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer is less than 100% of the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal set forth in a specified provision of the Act, the manufacturer shall pay a penalty equal to the product of (i) $0.70 per pound; multiplied by (ii) the difference between the manufacturer’s individual recycling or reuse goal and the total weight of CEDs and EEDs recycled or processed for reuse by the manufacturer during the program year. Effective immediately.”

A link to the text of the Minnesota bill HF 1412 was also added under “Pending State & Local Legislation” on the U.S. State & Local Legislation page. This bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Hornstein on March 4, 2015, would change the determination of e-scrap collection requirements for manufacturers. Currently, manufacturers fund the MN electronics recycling program with contributions based on volume of equipment sold in the state annually. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, the new bill would ‘change the state’s reuse and recycling goals every year in response to changing weights and quantities of electronic products sold and recycled. [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] will publish a new recycling goal each year based on the sum of the average weight of the electronic devices collected for recycling in the preceding two years.’ The bill additionally proposes to broaden the state’s electronics disposal ban, which currently only bans CRTs from landfills. If passed, the amended disposal ban would include products such as cellphones, video game consoles and computers and computer peripherals.

A few of the new items in the SEI Resource Compilations. (Items are added all the time, so check the web site often.):

Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones: The aim of this study is to explore the literature surrounding the environmental impact of mobile phones and the implications of moving from the current business model of selling, using and discarding phones to a product service system based upon a cloud service. The exploration of the impacts relating to this shift and subsequent change in scope is explored in relation to the life cycle profile of a typical smartphone.

MeterHero: MeterHero is a sustainability exchange where you can offset your water and energy use by purchasing savings from local homes, schools, and buildings. People who conserve earn income and help save the planet. The MeterHero dashboard allows users to track their water, electric and gas usage, and money earned by reducing usage.

Carbon Nanotubes in Electronics: Background and Discussion for Waste-Handling Strategies: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are increasingly being used in electronics products. CNTs have unique chemical and nanotoxicological properties, which are potentially dangerous to public health and the environment. This report presents the most recent findings of CNTs’ toxicity and discusses aspects related to incineration, recycling and potential remediation strategies including chemical and biological remediation possibilities. Our analysis shows that recycling CNTs may be challenging given their physiochemical properties and that available strategies such as power-gasification methods, biological degradation and chemical degradation may need to be combined with pre-handling routines for hazardous materials. The discussion provides the background knowledge for legislative measures concerning specialized waste handling and recycling procedures/facilities for electronics products containing CNTs.

Precarious Promise: A Case Study of Engineered Carbon NanotubesIn just over two decades since the discovery of carbon nanotubes, technologies relying on engineered CNTs have developed at warp speed. Current and anticipated uses of engineered CNTs are numerous and diverse: sporting equipment, solar cells, wind turbines, disk drives, batteries, antifouling paints for boats, flame retardants, life-saving medical devices, drug delivery technologies, and many more. Some have suggested that every  feature of life as we know it is or will be impacted by the discovery and use of CNTs. Despite uncertainty about how these entirely new materials may affect living systems, CNTs have largely been a case of “forget precaution, get to production.” Concern for human health and the environment has been overwhelmed by the promise of profits and progress. Financial support for nanomaterial research and commercial development has vastly outpaced funding of environmental health and safety and sustainable design research on these materials. And with limited understanding of how these structures — small enough to penetrate cells — will interact with humans and other life forms, use of CNTs is proliferating with few systems in place to protect people or the environment. Warning signs have emerged, however. CNTs share important physical characteristics with ultrafine air pollution particles as well as with asbestos fibers — both recognized as seriously toxic. Mounting numbers of toxicological studies now demonstrate irreversible health effects in laboratory animals, but it is unclear whether similar effects have occurred in humans exposed at work or through environmental releases. The growing literature on toxic effects of CNTs also make clear that the environmental and human health impacts may vary radically, depending on specific chemical and physical characteristics of the engineered nanomaterial. While some CNTs appear to be highly hazardous, it remains possible that others may pose little threat. Is it possible to gain the benefits of CNTs with minimal risk by ensuring the use of the safest alternatives for a particular application?  (PDF Format; Length: 36 pages)