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Posted: April 2, 2008
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition calls for nanotechnology regulation
(Nanowerk News) The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) released a 30-page report today that addresses the potential dangers of the rapidly expanding nanotechnology industry. In an industrial gold rush that mirrors the semiconductor and biotech booms, Silicon Valley is rapidly emerging as the center for a host of new nanotechnologies. The report traces the clear and alarming parallels between today’s nanotechnology industry and the semiconductor industry of the 1980s, when disastrous chemical spills polluted groundwater throughout Silicon Valley.
“The current landscape with respect to environmental knowledge about nanotechnology is eerily similar to the landscape of the 60s for basic chemicals,” said Sheila Davis, Executive Director of SVTC. “Landmark environmental acts passed in the 70s and 80s are out dated and do not apply to nanotech. We also lack monitoring and detection technology, and cleanup practices have not been established.”
Nanotechnology manipulates incredibly small particles, essentially using atoms and molecules as the basic building blocks for new materials with new and useful properties. Nanomaterials and processes are already used in a wide range of products, from sunscreens to solar panels, and nanotech is also being applied to new products in the medical, pharmaceutical, electronics, and environmental sectors. Smaller and increasingly complex nanomaterials are approaching the size of a single DNA molecule.
The biggest health and environmental concerns are due to the small size of nanomaterials, which have unprecedented mobility in the environment and in the body. Nanomaterials can readily enter the human body and gain access to the blood stream via inhalation and ingestion. Once in the blood stream these nanomaterials can circulate throughout the body and penetrate organs and tissues including the brain, liver, kidneys and nervous system.
SVTC is calling for new comprehensive state and federal regulatory policies that adequately address the potential hazards posed by nanotechnology. Nanotech represents a staggering number of essentially new materials and processes, most of which have not been adequately studied and do not fall under current environmental and health regulations. These materials are extremely diverse: many are highly reactive by design and have the potential for unexpected interactions with biological systems. Many nanomaterials (due to their extremely small size) pose potential hazards similar to those of other tiny particles such as asbestos.
SVTC’s new report, Regulating Emerging Technologies in Silicon Valley and Beyond: Lessons from 1981 Chemical Spills in the Electronics Industry and Implications for Regulating Nanotechnology can be downloaded at: svtc.org/svtc_nanotech.
About Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is a diverse organization engaged in research, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry. For more information, go tohttp://www.svtc.org.