With missing data about the large scale impact of nanotechnology, life cycle assessments of potential nanoproducts should form an integral part of nanotechnology research at early stages of decision making as it can help in the screening of different process alternatives. So far, however, life cycle studies of emerging nanotechnologies have been susceptible to huge uncertainties due to issues of data quality and the rapidly evolving nature of the production processes. A recent paper investigates the suitability of the U.S. regulatory system as a comprehensive package addressing multiple types and uses of engineered nanomaterials over their life cycle.
In the past few years, dialogues have become increasingly important for politics and science as well as scientific communication. More and more, they serve as an important feature for the responsible handling of nanotechnology at the national and European level. German speaking states have therefore laid emphasis on dialogues as a tool for communication and information in their nanotechnology action plans. The projects described in the following were largely initiated by the respective authorities as implementation measures of the national nanotechnology action plans.
In order to regulate nanomaterials and to determine mandatory product labelling a generally accepted agreement what the term 'nanomaterial' means has to be reached beforehand. The EU Parliament requires that a definition shallbe science-based and comprehensive. Furthermore, for regulatory measures in individual sectors, it shall be unambiguous, flexible, easy and practical to handle. During the past few years various institutions came up with suggestions for a definition, leading to a recommendation of the EU commission, which finally is being accepted into new and existing EU legislation. Some provisions in this proposal are controversial and the implementation into specific sectoral legislation constitutes a major challenge.
The European Commission acknowledges that nanomaterials are revolutionary materials and that important challenges exist in regard to hazard and exposure assessments. Yet, they conclude that current risk-assessment methods are applicable to nanomaterials. Scientists argue that significant changes to REACH and the accompanying annexes are required to answer the call made by the public, downstream users and progressive businesses for clearer and more definite regulatory rules specific to nanomaterials.
The first part of this survey, which we posted yesterday in our Nanowerk Spotlight, introduces nanotechnology policy making and the reasons for its complexity, and offers a panorama of the set of mandatory tools that are currently available to regulate nanotechnologies. The second part, today, provides an outlook of the set of voluntary tools that coexist with the mandatory ones. For the voluntary environmental programs that are in place for nanomaterials, governments are urging companies to submit health and safety information on the nanomaterials they produce or commercialize.
Complicating things, science is quite divided on how to assess nanotechnology materials and applications. Consequently, as the public discussion about the regulation of nanotechnology in general, and nanomaterials in particular, heats up, emerging opinions on the applicability of existing regulation differ substantially and so do views on which regulatory options best address the current lack of information about environment, health and safety risks of nanomaterials, as well as the regulatory uncertainty and concerns expressed by the politicians, members of the public and industry, and investors. A new, two-part survey outlines the different frameworks policy makers have developed.
The code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research (code of conduct) is the Annex to the first nanotechnology-specific legal measure by the EU (2008), a Commission recommendation that is legally nonbinding. The nanotechnologies code of conduct contains principles and guidelines for integrated, safe and responsible (ethical) nanosciences and nanotechnologies research. The central control mechanisms are research prioritisation, technology assessment, ethical and fundamental law clauses/restrictions, defensibility checks and accountability.
Will nanotechnology impact future global security? According to Jayshree Pandya, such technology is indeed about to change large-scale security dynamics, defense policies and possibly even the global balance of power. All states are eager to benefit from nanoscience, nano-engineering and nanotechnology initiatives - either directly or indirectly. While most states do not yet have dedicated nano-defense initiatives, rapid advances within the aforementioned fields are exciting many and becoming a cause of concern for the rest.