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August 7, 2007

International Coalition Urges Nano-Specific Regulations

Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 31, 2007, an international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, and labor organizations issued the Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials and called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new technology and its products. According to the coalition, the manufacture of products using technology has “exploded in recent years,” while “evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards.”

The coalition’s declaration outlines eight fundamental principles it believes are necessary for adequate and effective oversight and assessment of the emerging field of nanotechnology:

  1. A Precautionary Foundation:  Product manufacturers and distributors must bear the burden of proof to demonstrate the safety of their products:  if no independent health and safety data review, then no market approval.
  2. Mandatory Nano-specific Regulations:  Nanomaterials should be classified as new substances and subject to nano-specific oversight.  Voluntary initiatives are not sufficient.
  3. Health and Safety of the Public and Workers:  The prevention of exposure to nanomaterials that have not been proven safe must be undertaken to protect the public and workers.
  4. Environmental Protection:  A full lifecycle analysis of environmental impacts must be completed prior to commercialization.
  5. Transparency:  All nano-products must be labeled and safety data made publicly available.
  6. Public Participation:  There must be open, meaningful, and full public participation at every level.
  7. Inclusion of Broader Impacts:  Nanotechnology’s wide-ranging effects, including ethical and social impacts, must be considered.
  8. Manufacturer Liability:  Nano-industries must be accountable for liabilities incurred from their products.