Posted: September 7, 2007

Nanotechnology editorial in the Asahi Shimbun

(Nanowerk News) The Asahi Shimbun today carries an editorial that mostly deals with the safety issues of nanotechnology.
Among other things, the feature addresses AIST's nanotoxicity studies:
In Japan, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology is leading a project to evaluate the safety of nanotechnology products. The project is aimed at determining the toxicity of a wide range of nanoscale materials. It expects to announce its findings by the end of fiscal 2010.
For some particularly important nanoscale materials, including carbon nanotubes, there is a fear that they pose potential health hazards. To find out, animal experiments will be conducted by using these materials. The institute will draw up guidelines on the amount of exposure that is safe for the human body and make proposals about how such materials should be used.
"In such a new field as nanotechnology, the important thing is to conduct safety checks frequently as the technology progresses," says Junko Nakanishi, director of the institute's Research Center for Chemical Risk Management. Nakanishi has been spearheading the nanotechnology safety evaluation project.
The piece concludes by drawing comparisons between nuclear power and genetic engineering on one hand and nanotechnology on the other hand:
The threat posed to mankind by nuclear power was only recognized after the technology was used to develop atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. Researchers in genetic engineering started discussing safety and other problems inherent in their field of research in the mid 1970s, when genetic technology had just been developed. But broad social consensus on rules governing genetically modified food products and other applications of gene technology has yet to emerge.
This underscores the importance of studying all the potential negative consequences of deploying advanced technologies and seeking consensus on rules governing them before they gain broad acceptance. Nanotechnology should become the first example of such a proactive policy response to technological progress.
Source: Asahi Shimbun