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May 24, 2007

NRDC Report Claims U.S. Has Failed to Protect Citizens from Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 15, 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report entitled Nanotechnology’s Invisible Threat: Small Science, Big Consequences, which claims that the U.S. government has failed “to use its authority to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry.”

NRDC proposes a three-part framework for regulating nanomaterials, and based the framework on a precautionary approach to managing toxic chemicals:

  • Prohibit the unsafe or untested use of nanomaterials. Because preliminary data demonstrate 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 life cycle of the material.
  • Conduct full life cycle 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 life cycle of the material. The results of testing should be made available to the public.
  • 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.