, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 11-22
Date: 26 Oct 2006

Protecting workers and the environment: An environmental NGO’s perspective on nanotechnology

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Abstract

Nanotechnology, the design and manipulation of materials at the atomic scale, may well revolutionize many of the ways our society manufactures products, produces energy, and treats diseases. New materials based on nanotechnology are already reaching the market in a wide variety of consumer products. Some of the observed properties of nanomaterials call into question the adequacy of current methods for determining hazard and exposure and for controlling resulting risks. Given the limitations of existing regulatory tools and policies, we believe two distinct kinds of initiatives are needed: first, a major increase in the federal investment in nanomaterial risk research; second, rapid development and implementation of voluntary standards of care pending development of adequate regulatory safeguards in the longer term. Several voluntary programs are currently at various stages of evolution, though the eventual outputs of each of these are still far from clear. Ultimately, effective regulatory safeguards are necessary to provide a level playing field for industry while adequately protecting human health and the environment. This paper reviews the existing toxicological literature on nanomaterials, outlines and analyzes the current regulatory framework, and provides our recommendations, as an environmental non-profit organization, for safe nanotechnology development.