Posted: January 4, 2008

UK government releases second nanotechnology risk report

(Nanowerk News) The UK government has now published its second research report "Characterising the Potential Risks posed by Engineered Nanoparticles". This report builds on the 2005 report and 2006 progress report, providing an update on the Defra's (the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group’s objectives and associated programme of work.
Environment Minister Phil Woolas urged the UK research community and the nanotechnology industry to fill the gaps in our understanding of the potential risks posed by nanomaterials so that the public can have confidence in the safety of products.
Mr Woolas said: "Nanotechnologies present a real opportunity for the UK economy and for benefits to the environment. However, research is needed to ensure that products based on this technology are safe for human health and the environment."
His comments come as the Government published its second research report on manufactured nanomaterials, extremely small scale materials, outlining progress on its research agenda to address the potential risk posed by the products of nanotechnology. These risks were set out in the first report published in 2005.
The report provides a detailed update of progress on the 19 research objectives which were set out in 2005, it reviews research funding opportunities for nanotechnology, places the UK work programme in an international context and responds to recommendations from the Council for Science and Technology’s review of March 2007 of the Government’s research agenda on nanotechnology environment, health and safety issues and the activities of the Nanotechnology Research Coordination Group (NRCG).
Significant progress has been made towards meeting the research objectives, notably in the area of occupational exposure to nanomaterials, where a number of international and national collaborative projects are well under way, and in the areas of environmental fate and behaviour and identification and specification of requirements for reference nanomaterials. Underpinning high quality research on nanotechnology funded by the UK research councils and via the European Research Framework Programmes is providing a bedrock on which more applied research to understand the potential hazards and risks of nanomaterials can be based.
Government departments will have funded around £10m of research between 2005 to 2008 and it is hoped that, through a greater collaborative effort between government departments and agencies, the research councils and industry, research directed at the 19 objectives can be increased in the future. The amount of work required to fill all the gaps in our understanding of the potential risks is very large and the report sets out how UK is working with international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to collaborate on research objective setting and work programmes.
The report continues to address the uncertainties associated with nanotechnologies as set out in the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering Report of 2004 “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and uncertainties” which still serves to drive the agenda for the responsible development of nanotechnologies.
Source: Defra
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