Posted: May 18, 2007

Report accuses government of gross failure in protecting public from nanotechnology

(Nanowerk News) A report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) accuses the U.S. government of gross failure to use its authority to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry, according to scientists and policy experts at NRDC.
NRDC scientists have created a regulatory framework for nanomaterials, a new breed of super-small industrial materials already being used in more than 500 consumer products such as baby wipes, sunscreen, toothpaste, and lipstick.
“Precautionary regulation must play ‘catch up’ to ensure worker and public safety. Without requirements for product labeling, consumers are left ignorant and vulnerable to exposure to an untested and possibly unsafe new generation of chemicals. People deserve unbiased information to protect their families,” said Jennifer Sass, nanotechnology expert with NRDC and author of the report.
In the face of government failure to take action, the new NRDC report "Nanotechnology's Invisible Threat" proposes an immediate, three-part framework for regulating nanomaterials, based on already established precautionary approaches to managing toxic chemicals that are broadly agreed upon by environmental and worker protection groups:
- Prohibit the untested or unsafe use of nanomaterials. Because preliminary data demonstrates the potential for toxicity, unsafe or untested nanomaterials should not be used in a manner that may result in human exposures or environmental releases over the lifecycle of the material.
- Conduct full lifecycle environment, health, and safety impact assessments as a prerequisite to commercialization. Robust testing is urgently needed to identify potential risks early in development, across the lifecycle of the material. The results of testing should be made available to the public.
- Facilitate full and meaningful participation by the public and workers in nanotechnologies development and control; consider the social and ethical impacts of nanotechnology. The potential of nanotechnologies to transform the global social, economic, and political landscape means we must move the decision-making out of corporate boardrooms and into the public realm.
Several studies have associated nano-sized air pollutants with asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes and respiratory disease. Yet nanomaterials in consumer products remain essentially unregulated in the United States.
Source: NRDC