Emerging technology poses similar scale of risk as asbestos, report says.

Nanotechnology could be as great a threat to insurers as asbestos, experts have warned.

New York risk industry analyst Advisen has called for the industry to assess its exposure to the rapidly evolving nanotechnology industry after comparisons between nanotube particles and deadly asbestos fibres. Asbestos caused £20bn worth of insurance claims in the UK and its effects are still being felt today.

The journal Nature Nanotechnology concluded that nanotubes may pose health risks akin to those resulting from asbestos contamination.

The Advisen report said: “Insurers need to take appropriate steps to protect their bottom lines from potentially catastrophic loss scenarios. However, a lack of insurance availability could stifle innovation and slow the introduction of valuable new products.”

Nanotechnology involves the manufacture and manipulation of materials on a very small scale – at the molecular or atomic levels –to build microscopic machinery.