UK report urges more tests of health and environmental effects of nanotechnology products

Paul Marks of New Scientist reports on the release of a report by the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution titled “Novel Materials in the Environment: The case of nanotechnology” (4.6 MB PDF). The report concludes that nanotech products are coming to market without adequate tests for safety based upon the unique properties of the nanomaterials. From Marks’ article “Is nanotechnology a health timebomb?“:

Emerging nanomaterials need to undergo urgent testing to assess their effects on health and the environment, the UK’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said in a report released this week.

It says nanotechnology-based products are hitting the market without being properly assessed for safety – and that’s a risk too far.

…The commission is calling for the European Union to extend its regulatory regime for chemicals (REACH) to properly assess nanomaterials and their unique properties.

In the UK, they want the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to develop and undertake tests on products that contain nanomaterials, and develop gadgets that detect, for instance, nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes when they become airborne.

“We have no means of detecting buckyballs or nanotubes in the environment right now,” says John Lawton, the RCEP’s chairman.

…”The rate of nanotechnology innovation now far outstrips our capacity to respond to the risks,” says Lawton.

…The RCEP thinks the advantages to society of nanotechnologies are too great to lose. “On balance there are no grounds for a blanket ban,” says Lawton.

Instead, he simply wants a major increase in the amount of testing to assess risk – prioritising the materials that may present the greatest risk to the environment and human health.

“Research gaps need to be addressed urgently, especially given the long lead times involved in developing and putting in place testing arrangements that will inform regulatory and legislative processes,” he says.


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