WASHINGTON, DC An improved but still flawed government-wide plan for nanotechnology risk research is the result of a broken system. Federally-funded studies essential to managing possible risks from this cutting-edge technology should be guided by a top-down strategy tied to projected commercialization, expected human and environmental exposures, and the regulatory decision-making process.
The National Nanotechnology Initiatives (NNI) Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group recently released its strategy for nanotechnology environmental, health and safety research. The strategy outlines an improved focus on risk research for more than 20 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Earlier drafts of the strategy received widespread criticism from industry officials, policy experts and congressional lawmakers for being merely a list of general nanotechnology risk research categories. The new strategy makes substantial strides towards identifying prioritized research needs and assigning lead agencies to address these needs.
Also just released, the new EPA Office of Research & Development nanotechnology risk research plan appears to be in lock step with the NEHI strategy. The EPA plan includes important studies on risk assessment methods and life-cycle analysis to determine the eventual fate of nanomaterials.
But major hurdles still stand in the way of the public, industry and government obtaining a better understanding of the risks posed by nanomaterials and how to limit those risks. Necessary resources for nanotechnology risk research are few and far between in relevant oversight agencies such as the EPA, FDA and CPSC. In addition, a limited investment by the NNI on occupational exposure research can only increase dangers to those most susceptible workers.
The truth is that
|Contact: Colin Finan|
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies