Ground zero for nano controversy: Berkeley, of course

From Michael Toffel in the Berkeley Daily Planet:

“…I asked the City of Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC), of which I am a member, to consider a draft motion calling for the City Council to ask a similar set of questions. This motion simply asks LBL to: 1. Publicly disclose how they are identifying the risks to community health and the environment associated with their new nanotechnology activities. 2. How they are using external experts (of their own choosing) to validate this process. 3. What measures they are taking to ensure these risks are being managed properly. 4. How they will keep updated on this evolving science. 5. How they will inform the public about all this…

“First, perhaps the lab is still figuring out what policies and procedures it will implement to safeguard community health and the environment. This is plausible given so little is actually known about these concerns and the utter lack of regulations and industry standards. But shouldn’t the Lab be forthright about this? The Lab could publicly acknowledge what it does and does not know, and only permit research to be conducted where they are quite sure about the potential impacts and the appropriate protective measures to take.”

About this last sentence: it sounds plausible at first, until one remembers that research, by its very nature, explores the unknown. There is no way to be quite sure about the potential impacts, or to know for certain what protective measures to take.—Christine

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