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Federal government releases environmental, health, and safety research strategy for nanotechnology

The Federal Government today released a national strategy for ensuring that environmental, health, and safety research needs are fully identified and addressed in the fast-growing field of nanotechnology.

The 2011 NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research Strategy provides an integrated research framework to guide all Federal agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the Federal Government's ten-year-old program for nurturing and coordinating the emerging science of nanotechnology. The research strategy will help the NNI leverage Federal resources and infrastructure to most efficiently produce research data that can be used to protect public health and the environment, while continuing to fuel innovations and capture the value of those innovations for the benefit of the American people.

Drafted to be consistent with the NNI Strategic Plan, which was released in February, the EHS Research Strategy identifies research priorities in order to best drive the responsible development of nanotechnology, one of four main goals of the NNI Strategic Plan. The EHS Research Strategy is grounded in the principles of risk assessment and product life cycle analysisrational approaches to protecting health and the environment that involve measures of risk at every stage of a product's development, from preliminary handling of raw materials to final disposal of finished products.

The strategy identifies six core categories of research that together can contribute to the responsible development of nanotechnology: (1) Nanomaterial Measurement Infrastructure, (2) Human Exposure Assessment, (3) Human Health, (4) Environment, (5) Risk Assessment and Risk Management, and (6) Informatics and Modeling. The strategy also aims to address the various ethical, legal, and societal implications of this emerging technology.

Notable elements of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy include:

  • The critical role of informatics and predictive modeling in organizing the expanding nanotechnology EHS knowledge base;
  • Targeting and accelerating research through the prioritization of nanomaterials for research; the establishment of standardized measurements, terminology, and nomenclature; and the stratification of knowledge for different applications of risk assessment; and
  • Identification of best practices for the coordination and implementation of NNI interagency collaborations and industrial and international partnerships.

"The EHS Research Strategy provides guidance to all the Federal agencies that have been producing gold-standard scientific data for risk assessment and management, regulatory decision making, product use, research planning, and public outreach," said Dr. Sally Tinkle, NNI EHS Coordinator and Deputy Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), which coordinates activities of the 25 agencies that participate in the NNI. "This continues a trend in this Administration of increasing support for nanotechnology-related EHS research, as exemplified by new funding in 2011 from the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission and increased funding from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Invaluable contributions to the EHS Research Strategy were obtained through public engagement, including a series of workshops and an online portal to solicit feedback from stakeholders, including representatives from industry, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the public. The strategy also incorporates recommendations received from external reviews of the 2008 NNI Nanotechnology-related EHS Research Strategy produced by the National Academies and a 2009 report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

To highlight the release of this strategy document, describe key features, and answers questions from stakeholders and the public, the NNI is hosting a webinar today, Thursday, October 20, from 12:00 noon-12:45 pm (EDT).

The webinar will begin with an overview of the strategy's development followed by comments from industrial, regulatory, and public health perspectives. Dr. John Howard, Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group Co-Chair, will serve as the moderator. NEHI is a Working Group of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a cabinet-level interagency council that addresses a wide range of issues in science and technology. Webinar panelists will include:

  • Dr. Treye Thomas, NEHI Working Group Co-Chair
  • Dr. Shaun Clancy, Evonik DeGussa Corporation
  • Dr. Janet Carter, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Ms. Lynn Bergeson, Bergeson & Campbell

A question-and-answer period will follow the presentations. Questions may be submitted through the registration site until 12:45 pm Thursday, October 20. Registration is necessary in order to view the webinar online; please click here to register for the event.


Contact: Marlowe Epstein
National Nanotechnology Coordination Office

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