Home > Press > Federal Research Plan to Determine Nanotech Risks Fails to Deliver
Lack of Government Risk Research Strategy Jeopardizes Success of Technology
Federal Research Plan to Determine Nanotech Risks Fails to Deliver
Washington, DC | Posted on September 13th, 2007
Almost a year in the making, a federal plan to prioritize research on the potential environmental, health, and safety (EHS) impacts of nanoscale materials has so many failings that its begs the question as to whether the governments 13-agency nanotechnology research effort is able to deliver an effective risk research strategy, according to David Rejeski, head of the Wilson Centers Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
Currently, the federal nanotechnology risk research agenda is a bit like a ship without a captain, and it is unclear who has the responsibility to steer this ship in the right direction and make sure that it reaches its destination, Rejeski said in comments on the new government report, Prioritization of Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials. His full comments, along with those of project chief scientist Andrew Maynard, are available at http://www.nanotechproject.org .
Released for public review on August 16, the 8-page government report was prepared by a working group of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee (NSET), part of the federal governments National Science and Technology Council. In September 2006, the same working group issued a list of nearly 70 EHS research needs necessitated by advances in nanotechnology and subsequent commercialization efforts. The new report responds to some 40 public comments on the prioritization criteria described in last years document.
Although the new NSET report pares down the original listing to a shorter laundry list of 25 research activities, the end result is a simplistic list of priorities, says Rejeski. Furthermore, he states: It falls far short of the carefully crafted, prioritized federal nanotechnology EHS research plan urgently called for over the past two years by leaders from both parties in Congress, industry, investment firms, scientists and consumer groups. Notably absent are important details like budget allocations, implementation time frames, and assigned responsibilities. The report reflects the governments failure-after allotting over $8 billion for nanotechnology research since fiscal year 2001-to develop a coordinated, prioritized, and adequately funded program to characterize potential risks to human health and the environment associated with processes and products involving engineered nanomaterials.
In comments submitted to the NSET, Dr. Maynard said, It remains hard to see how this report or subsequent planned activities will help to provide the information that industry, regulators, and the public need to ensure the safe development and use of nanotechnology.
In the projects submission to the NSET subcommittee, Maynard and Rejeski both questioned whether following the priorities listed in the document would yield information that policymakers and regulators need to ensure that existing and future nanotechnology products are safe and environmentally sustainable.
Rejeski advised that funding for nanotechnology-related EHS research be directed toward agencies which have or support regulatory missions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If this document is truly meant to serve as a basis for a risk research strategy, there is a long way to go, Rejeski said.
In 2006, nanotechnology was incorporated into more than an estimated $50 billion in manufactured goods. More than 500 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology consumer products are on the market from cosmetics to automobile parts to childrens toy stuffed animals ( http://www.nanotechproject.org/consumerproducts ). By 2014, an estimated $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will use this technology.
As the commercialization of increasingly sophisticated nanotechnologies gathers pace, Maynard said, industry, regulators and the public need sound information, now more than ever, on which to base their decisions. They also need the assurance that there is a strategy in place to fill knowledge gaps about risks as fast and efficiently as possible.
Nanotechnology entails the measurement, prediction and construction of materials on the scale of atoms and molecules. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, and nanotechnology typically deals with particles and structures larger than 1 nanometer, but smaller than 100 nanometers. To put this into perspective, the width of a human hair is approximately 80,000 nanometers.
About The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies ( http://www.nanotechproject.org ) is an initiative launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.
For more information, please click here
Phone: (202) 691-4016
Copyright © Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
Sound waves precisely position nanowires June 19th, 2013
3-D printing could lead to tiny medical implants, electronics, robots, more June 18th, 2013
Working backward: Computer-aided design of zeolite templates: Rice scientists apply drug-design lessons to production of industrial minerals June 17th, 2013
An Innovative material for the Green Earth: Simple and inexpensive process to make a material for CO2 adsorption June 17th, 2013
Sound waves precisely position nanowires June 19th, 2013
Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Thermal Stability of Essential Oils June 19th, 2013
Production of Bioactive Material for Quick Treatment of Bone Damages June 19th, 2013
Nanometrics Announces Participation in 5th Annual CEO Investor Summit: Accredited Investor and Publishing Research Analyst Event to be Held Concurrently With SEMICON West and Intersolar 2013 in San Francisco June 19th, 2013
Further research on effects of nanomaterials: BASF participates in BMBF research project on safety of nanomaterials: Results allow easier and faster evaluation of nanoparticle behavior June 12th, 2013
Conference Scheduled June 5-7 on Safe Use of Nanotechnology in Environmental Remediation May 23rd, 2013
NIA Public Briefing: Nanotechnology and the Council of Europe May 17th, 2013
Squishy hydrogels may be the ticket for studying biological effects of nanoparticles May 15th, 2013