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September 12, 2013

NRC Releases Report on Advancing Research Agenda for EHS Aspects of Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 12, 2013, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report entitled Research Progress on Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the NRC to perform an independent study to develop and monitor the implementation of an integrated research strategy to address the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of engineered nanomaterials (ENM). The Committee to Develop a Research Strategy for EHS Aspects of ENMs was formed and released a report in January 2012, A Research Strategy for the Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials. That report developed a research plan with short- and long-term priorities and estimated resources needed to implement the research plan. In the 2013 report, the Committee assesses the trajectory of research progress on the basis of indicators identified in its first report. According to the report, while some progress has been made in advancing the research agenda on the EHS aspects of ENMs, little work has been done to implement an integrated research strategy throughout the federal government. The Committee reiterates a conclusion from the first report, that accountability for implementing a research strategy “is hampered by the absence of an entity with sufficient management and budgetary authority to direct research efforts governmentwide.” The Committee “maintains that [the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)] would benefit from a clearer separation of authority and accountability for its environmental, health, and safety research enterprise in relation to its mandate to promote nanotechnology development and commercialization.” The report suggests “progress could be accelerated if a single agency with sufficient management and budgetary authority was designated to direct” EHS research efforts and ensure implementation of a coordinated plan among the federal agencies that make up the NNI.