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Home > Press > Government reviews and updates its research agenda to characterise potential risks of nanomaterials

Abstract:
DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (482/07)
issued by The Government News Network on 19 December 2007
Environment Minister Phil Woolas today urged the UK research community and
the nanotechnology industry to fill the gaps in our understanding of the
potential risks posed by nanomaterials so that the public can have confidence
in the safety of products.

Government reviews and updates its research agenda to characterise potential risks of nanomaterials

London, UK | Posted on December 19th, 2007

Mr Woolas said: "Nanotechnologies present a real opportunity for the UK
economy and for benefits to the environment. However, research is needed to
ensure that products based on this technology are safe for human health and
the environment."

His comments come as the Government published its second research report on
manufactured nanomaterials, extremely small scale materials, outlining progress
on its research agenda to address the potential risk posed by the products of
nanotechnology. These risks were set out in the first report published in 2005.

The report provides a detailed update of progress on the 19 research objectives
which were set out in 2005, it reviews research funding opportunities for
nanotechnology, places the UK work programme in an international context and
responds to recommendations from the Council for Science and Technology's
review of March 2007 of the Government's research agenda on nanotechnology
environment, health and safety issues and the activities of the Nanotechnology
Research Coordination Group (NRCG).

Significant progress has been made towards meeting the research objectives,
notably in the area of occupational exposure to nanomaterials, where a number
of international and national collaborative projects are well under way,
and in the areas of environmental fate and behaviour and identification and
specification of requirements for reference nanomaterials. Underpinning high
quality research on nanotechnology funded by the UK research councils and
via the European Research Framework Programmes is providing a bedrock on
which more applied research to understand the potential hazards and risks
of nanomaterials can be based.

Government departments will have funded around 10m of research between 2005
to 2008 and it is hoped that, through a greater collaborative effort between
government departments and agencies, the research councils and industry,
research directed at the 19 objectives can be increased in the future. The
amount of work required to fill all the gaps in our understanding of the
potential risks is very large and the report sets out how UK is working
with international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) and the International Standards Organisation (ISO)
to collaborate on research objective setting and work programmes.

The report continues to address the uncertainties associated with
nanotechnologies as set out in the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering
Report of 2004 "Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and
uncertainties" which still serves to drive the agenda for the responsible
development of nanotechnologies.

The report Characterising the potential risks posed by engineered
nanoparticles: a Second Government Research Report was produced by the NRCG,
a consortium of Government Departments, Agencies and the Research Councils,
chaired by Defra. The report is available on the Defra website at:
www.defra.gov.uk/environment/nanotech/research/reports/index.htm.

NOTES TO EDITORS
1. "Characterising the risks posed by engineered nanoparticles; a second
UK Government research report" was produced by the 5 Task Forces of
the Nanotechnology Research Co-Ordination Group (NRCG) which consists
of members from Defra, the Department for Innovation, Universities and
Skills, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform,
the Department for Health, The Ministry of Defence, The Office of Science
and Technology, the Technology Strategy Board, the Food Standards Agency,
The Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, the Medicines and
Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, The National Physical Laboratory,
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, The Economic and
Social Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council,
the Medical Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and
the Science and Technology Facilities Research Council.

2. The report was prepared to meet the Government's commitment in its first
research report to provide an update on the nanotechnology research programme
before the end of 2007.

3. Nanotechnology refers to the application of materials at atomic, molecular
and macromolecular scale where properties differ from those found in the
same material in gross form. A nanometre is one thousand millionth of a
metre and nanomaterials are typically between 1 and 100 nanometers in size
and are mainly in the form of particles or tubes. A human hair is 80,000nm
wide, a red blood cell 7,000 nm wide and a water molecule 0.3nm wide.

4. Commercial products and developments that use nanomaterials include
sunscreens and cosmetics, paints and other coatings, diesel fuel additives,
self-cleaning windows, materials science, energy production and storage
and electronics

Press enquiries 020 7238 6698; Public enquiries 08459 335577;
Press notices are available on our website www.defra.gov.uk
Defra's aim is sustainable development
To subscribe or unsubscribe to Defra's mailing list go to:
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