The latest news from academia, regulators
research labs and other things of interest
Posted: December 11, 2006
Research framework for assessing nanotechnology safety
(Nanowerk News) ICF International released its analysis of the U.S. Federal Governmentís efforts to research the human health and environmental consequences of nanotechnology. The report, titled "Characterizing the Environmental, Health, and Safety Implications of Nanotechnology: Where Should the Federal Government Go From Here?" describes an urgent need to chart a more aggressive course when it comes to answering such questions. Nanotechnology promises profound innovations in fields like medicine, energy, information technology, transportation, and environmental protection, allowing the creation of materials with unique and novel properties. However, questions arise about its implications on the environment and for the health and safety of workers and consumers.
"Valuable research has already been done, but there is much more to do and, given the rate at which nanotechnology is evolving, limited time is available," said Sergio Ostria, a senior vice president and expert on environmental, transportation, and regulatory issues at ICF. "We initiated this study to contribute to the national discussion of how the United States can realize the potential of nanotechnology while addressing environmental, health, and safety implications."
In the report, ICF takes an integrated view of the challenge and provides 14 specific policy recommendations built around three components. The first entails identifying the "right" research that can inform priority risk management decisions. The second addresses research management and offers recommendations for the completion of timely and policy-relevant research. The third component focuses on how research results can be used to support sound risk management decisions. Principles of continuous improvement are then overlaid on the framework to allow ongoing feedback to enhance the national research effort.
"At first, the challenge appears to be only a scientific one, focused on traditional risk assessment topics like hazard, exposure, dose-response, and environmental impacts," says Peter Linquiti, study co-author and ICF consultant. "But itís also a management issue. Without a sound strategic research plan and the right underlying business processes, it will be difficult to ensure that federal research reliably yields answers to questions being asked by a wide variety of stakeholders."