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Posted: January 11, 2008
Chairman Wynn examines dangers of nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) On Wednesday, Congressman Albert R. Wynn (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment and Hazardous Materials, convened a forum on nanotechnology and heard from some of the leading environmental, government and industry experts in the field.
Nanotechnology is generally defined as the intentional engineering of materials at the atomic or molecular level with novel properties. Nanomaterials are usually less than 100 nanometers - approximately 1/800the the width of human hair. This new technology has the potential to revolutionize fields as diverse as pollution control, health care, energy and manufacturing. More than 500 nanotechnology-based consumer products are already on the market and more than 600 raw materials, intermediate components, and industrial equipment reportedly employ nanotechnology. The National Science Foundation estimates that by 2015, nanotechnology will have a $1 trillion impact on the economy and employ 2 million workers - 1 million of which may be in the U.S.
The panel discussion confirmed that the existing statutory authorities are not capable of providing appropriate government oversight to address and minimize the risk of nanotechnology.
Wynn said, "Nanomaterials have real environmental, health and safety toxicity effects that need to be fully addressed to protect human health and the environment. A growing number of scientists believe that the unique properties of nanomaterials might pose substantial risks. Much remains unknown about the potential consequences of exposure to some commercially used nanomaterials. Without a comprehensive understanding of the risks involved with nanomaterials, the future of this promising technology may be overshadowed by undesired consequences."
Next year, Chairman Wynn plans to hold a hearing on the serious gaps in the current statutory and regulatory framework to provide appropriate oversight and protect human health and the environment.
Source: Office of Congressman Wynn (hat tip to John Monica at teh Nanotechnology Law Report)