“Nobody Told Me I was a Nano-Consumer:” How Nanotechnologies Might Challenge the Notion of Consumer Rights
Regarding nanotechnologies and the consumer, a central paradox is the absence of a regulatory framework while more than 1,000 nano-enabled products are already available on the consumer markets. This represents a serious challenge for the consumer interest. Even though the prospects of nanotechnologies are truly fascinating and represent possibilities to solve major problems—for instance in the realms of health, energy and poverty—it is important to also discuss the potential risks of nano-enabled products. The present study reports on a Norwegian study with data derived from focus groups, a content analysis of advertisements, packaging and labels for cosmetics as well as on a Norwegian consumer survey. Conceptually, the paper is based on the notion of consumer rights introduced by President J.F. Kennedy in 1962. Based on the results of these studies, consumer policy implications are sketched.
KeywordsConsumer rights Nanotechnologies Nano-enabled products Consumer information
- ANEC/BEUC (2009). Nanotechnology: Small is beautiful- but is it safe? Joint ANEC/BEUC position June 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.anec.org/attachments/ANEC-PT-2009-Nano-002final.pdf.
- Beck, U. (1992). Risk society. Towards a new modernity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Cleaning up water. (2008). Nature Materials, 7, 341–347, Editorial.Google Scholar
- DoE (Department of Energy). (2004). Nanoscale science, engineering and technology in the departement of energy. Retrieved from: http://www.science.doe.gov/bes/brochures/files/NSRC_brochure.pdf.
- European Commission. (2007). REACH in brief. Retrieved from: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/pdf/2007_02_reach_in_brief.pdf.
- European Parliament. (2006). Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union. Article 38 consumer protection. Retrieved from: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/libe/elsj/charter/art38/default_en.htm#3.
- Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A. (1994). Beyond left and right. The future of radical politics. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- Hart, P. (2008). Awareness of and attitudes toward nanotechnology and synthetic biology. A report of findings. Washington. Retrieved from: http://www.nanotechproject.org/process/assets/files/7040/final-synbioreport.pdf.
- Kennedy, J. F. (1962). Special message to the Congress on protecting the consumer interest. Statement read by President John F Kennedy. Thursday, 15 March 1962. Retrieved from: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9108&st=&st1.
- L’Oréal. (2008). Annual report 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.loreal-finance.com/_docs/us/rapport-2008/Rapport_Annuel_Tome_1.pdf.
- Marburger, J. (2002). John Marburger’s comments on "science based science policy" at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=4758.
- Maynes, E. S. (Ed.) (1988). The frontier of research in the consumer interest. Columbia: American Council on Consumer Interests.Google Scholar
- NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). (2008). Sailing ships in space? Maybe. Retrieved from: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats/nanosail_feature.html.
- Norwegian Parliament. (2005). Debate on the report to the Norwegian Parliament on research. Stortinget - Møte torsdag den 16. juni 2005 kl. 10. Sak nr. 11. Innstilling fra kirke-, utdannings- og forskningskomiteen om vilje til forskning. Retrieved from: http://www.stortinget.no/no/Saker-og-publikasjoner/Publikasjoner/Referater/Stortinget/2004-2005/050616/11/.
- Orthen, B. (2007). Nanotechnology: Health and environmental risks of nanomaterials. Research strategy. Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin/Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Germany. Retrieved from: http://www.baua.de/nn_49456/en/Topics-from-A-to-Z/Hazardous-Substances/Nanotechnology/pdf/research-strategy.pdf.
- PEN (Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies). (2009). Consumer products. An inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products currently on the market. Retrieved from: http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/.
- RCEP (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution). (2008). Novel materials in the environment: The case of nanotechnology. Report No. 27. Norwich: TSO.Google Scholar
- SFT (Norwegian Pollution Control Authority). (2008). Nanomaterialer - vurdering av regelverk og bruk. Answer on an assignment given by the Ministry of the Environment. Executive officer Ingrid Roland, 07.04.2008. Retrieved from: http://www.sft.no/nyheter/brev/nanomaterialer_md070408.pdf.
- Swagler, R. M. (1997). Consumer rights. In S. Brobeck (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of the consumer movement (pp. 168–169). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.Google Scholar
- Tata Motors. (2008). Nano fast facts. Retrieved from: http://tatanano.inservices.tatamotors.com/tatamotors/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=164&Itemid=176.
- Throne-Holst, H., Randles, S., Greiffenhagen, C., Strandbakken, P., & Stø, E. (2009). Risk, responsibility, rights, regulation and representation in the value chain of nano-products. In S. Arnaldi, A. Lorenzet & F. Russo (Eds.), Technoscience in progress. Managing the uncertainty of nanotechnology (pp. 31–52). Amsterdam: IOS.Google Scholar
- UN (United Nations). (2003). United Nations guidelines for consumer protection. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/publications/consumption_en.pdf.