Washington D.C. – The National Research Council, as part of The National Academies, has made available its forthcoming book: Review of the Federal Strategy For Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, And Safety Research online at its website. The book provides a thorough examination of the effectiveness of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in protecting the public from the possible dangers involved in the manufacture, handling, use, and disposal of nanomanufactured goods.
Although there are many products containing nanoscale materials in the marketplace already, the current report did not evaluate whether current uses of nanomaterials represent risks to the public. Instead, the committee responsible for the report notes the shortcomings of the 2007 NNI Strategic Plan.
One shortcoming the report points out in the NNI plan is “there is no evaluation of the existing state of science or of federally funded research in each of the five categories identified in the strategy.” It goes on to note that the data used to evaluate the NNI standards of environmental health and safety risks were inappropriate for use in that manner, since those specific projects did not focus on such risks as research goals. “There is no clear connection between the research projects and how they will inform an understanding of risk.” The solution, according to the NRC report, is for the NNI to fund specific research that focuses on risk assessment in these areas.
In a January 5th response to the report posted on the website nanotech-now.com, David Rejeski of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) explains that the new report by the National Research Council makes apparent the dangers of ignoring public perceptions of risk: “If government and industry do not work to build public confidence in nanotechnology by proactively addressing any emerging risks, consumers may reach for the ‘No-Nano’ label.”
Rejesky, the director of PEN, has testified before Congress on the ongoing need to examine risk more closely in the burgeoning nanotechnology field. He notes that the National Research Council report is extremely valuable and can provide a new administration with “guidance for getting it right.”
Indeed, combining appropriate studies of risk management with effective and honest communication with the public can ensure the U.S. Government’s investment in nanotechnology research will pay off in the long term.