Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NRDC Sounds Alarm On Risks Of Nano-Scale Chemistry

May 15: A report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) accuses the U.S. government of gross failure to use its authority to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry, according to scientists and policy experts at NRDC. NRDC said its scientists have created a regulatory framework for nanomaterials, a new breed of super-small industrial materials already being used in more than 500 consumer products such as baby wipes, sunscreen, toothpaste, and lipstick.

Jennifer Sass, nanotechnology expert with NRDC and author of the report said, “Precautionary regulation must play ‘catch up’ to ensure worker and public safety. Without requirements for product labeling, consumers are left ignorant and vulnerable to exposure to an untested and possibly unsafe new generation of chemicals. People deserve unbiased information to protect their families. In the face of government failure to take action, the new NRDC report proposes an immediate, three-part framework for regulating nanomaterials, based on already established precautionary approaches to managing toxic chemicals that are broadly agreed upon by environmental and worker protection groups.

The steps include; (1) Prohibit the untested or unsafe use of nanomaterials. Because preliminary data demonstrates the potential for toxicity, unsafe or untested nanomaterials should not be used in a manner that may result in human exposures or environmental releases over the lifecycle of the material. (2) Conduct full lifecycle environment, health, and safety impact assessments as a prerequisite to commercialization. Robust testing is urgently needed to identify potential risks early in development, across the lifecycle of the material. The results of testing should be made available to the public. (3) Facilitate full and meaningful participation by the public and workers in nanotechnologies development and control; consider the social and ethical impacts of nanotechnologies. The potential of nanotechnologies to transform the global social, economic, and political landscape means we must move the decision-making out of corporate boardrooms and into the public realm.

NRDC says several studies have associated nano-sized air pollutants with asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes and respiratory disease. Yet nanomaterials in consumer products remain essentially unregulated in the United States. Despite their unknown effects on human health, Lux Research, a consulting firm with expertise in science-driven innovation, projects that $2.6 trillion worth of manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnologies by 2014.

Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the NRDC report (
click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). [Note: On February 26, Environmental Defense and DuPont announced their Nano Risk Framework (click here).] [*Toxics]