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The European Commission is planning a wide ranging consultation on nanotechnologies with the aim of raising awareness of nanotechnologies' potential. At the same time, the consultation is designed to address citizens' concerns about their possible impact on health and the environment.
As increasing numbers of nanotechnology-based products reach the market, the Commission is keen to boost the public's knowledge of nanotechnologies by engaging in an open dialogue with citizens, Member States and other stakeholders.
'In today's Europe, nanotechnologies must be developed in a safe, integrated and responsible way, involving all stakeholders so that new applications can result in real benefits for EU citizens in the area of health,' commented European Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou.
'The regulatory challenge is to ensure that society benefits from novel applications of nanotechnologies, while ensuring a high level of protection of health, safety and the environment and thereby fully applying the precautionary principle,' added Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
Currently, nanotechnologies are covered by legislation in many fields, including chemicals, food, cosmetics and medicine. Nevertheless, more information on nanomaterials and safety is still needed, and with this in mind the Commission is promoting nanotechnology research both within its research framework programmes and through international fora such as the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary field, combining expertise from physics, chemistry and engineering, among other fields. Experts predict that nanotechnologies will boost innovation in areas such as public health, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the manufacturing industry, environmental protection, energy, transport, security and space. Forecasts for the world market for nanotechnologies span between €750 billion and €2,000 billion until the year 2015, and it is estimated that up to ten million nano-related jobs could be created by 2014.
'Nanotechnologies hold out exciting opportunities for creating new jobs in Europe, but we must make sure that any potential risks to workers' health and safety are properly addressed in the relevant EU workers protection legislation,' said Vladimir Spidla, the EU's Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner.
Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, also stated: 'A reliable and stable regulatory framework is essential for enabling the EU's industry to fully exploit the advances of nanotechnologies. With the right structures in place they will boost innovation and contribute to growth, employment creation and competitiveness.'
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