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August 2, 2008

City of Cambridge Adopts Recommendations for a Municipal Health and Safety Policy on Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 28, 2008, the City Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts voted to accept a set of recommendations for a municipal health and safety policy on nanomaterials. The recommendations were set forth in a report prepared by the Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) and the Cambridge Nanomaterials Advisory Committee (CNAC). Cambridge now becomes the second city in the United States — Berkeley, California is the other — to have taken municipal action on nanomaterials.

The Berkeley City Council approved an ordinance in December 2006 that imposed a reporting obligation on facilities manufacturing or using nanomaterials. Shortly thereafter, the Cambridge City Council directed the City Manager to examine the Berkeley ordinance and recommend an appropriate municipal ordinance for Cambridge. The City Manager convened the CNAC and charged it with developing recommendations for oversight of local nanotechnology activities to protect human health. CNAC proceeded to develop a number of recommendations, all of which were endorsed by CPHD and have now been accepted by the City Council.

The recommendations call for Cambridge to take the following steps:

  • Establish an inventory of facilities that manufacture, process, handle, or store engineered nanoscale materials;
  • Offer technical assistance to help firms and institutions evaluate their existing health and safety plans;
  • Offer up-to-date health information to residents on products containing nanomaterials;
  • Track rapidly changing developments in research;
  • Track the evolving status of regulations and best practices concerning engineered nanoscale materials; and
  • Report back to the City Council every other year on the changing regulatory and safety landscape.