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Global mandatory register for nanomaterials essential if environmental, health and safety risks are to be managed

The establishment of a mandatory reporting system for nano-enabled products in commercial use across both the US and EU is essential if regulators are to effectively manage the risks of nanomaterials. This is one of the main recommendations in a groundbreaking report calling for improved US-EU coordination of nanomaterials regulation.

Photograph of an atomic cell structureThe report Securing the Promise of Nanotechnologies: Towards Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation, released today by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Chatham House and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, provides the first systematic comparison of US and EU approaches to oversight of environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials. It calls on US and EU governments to:

  • step up international efforts to create the scientific foundations for assessing the potential risks of nanotechnologies;
  • provide significantly increased funding for research into EHS risks and promote international coordination of research strategies; and
  • create new mandatory reporting requirements in order for regulators to obtain comprehensive information about the commercial use of nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology promises wide-ranging and innovative applications in sectors ranging from computing to medicines, food, cosmetics and energy storage. Global revenues from nanotechnologies are set to reach $2.5 trillion by 2015, according to Lux Research. As much as 4 per cent of total manufacturing and materials sector output may incorporate nanotechnologies, and 16 per cent of manufactured goods in heathcare and life sciences and 50 per cent in electronics and IT may be nano-enabled by that time.

An estimated 1,000 nano-enabled products from 24 different countries are already available to consumers. Yet scientific uncertainty persists on the question of how nanomaterials might affect the environment and human health, and industry and regulators concede that they do not have comprehensive information about what types of nanomaterials are being used and what products contain them.

David Rejeski, director of PEN, said: 'The United States and European Union need to strengthen international regulatory cooperation if the commercial promises of nanotechnologies are to be fulfilled.' 

Dr Robert Falkner|, senior lecturer in international relations at LSE and coordinator of the project, said: 'Voluntary reporting initiatives in the UK and US have failed to fill existing knowledge gaps on the commercial use of nanomaterials. It is therefore time to introduce a mandatory market register, to create market transparency about the use of nanomaterials in consumer products.'

The report also finds that transatlantic coordination on risk management must be a priority on the international agenda as more and more nanomaterials enter global supply chains and differences in US and EU management approaches could complicate the free flow of goods across national boundaries. The report also calls for US and EU authorities to explore the implications of potentially diverging consumer labeling requirements for nanomaterials and the possible development of common approaches or standards for labeling.

Linda Breggin, senior attorney at ELI and co-author of the report, said: 'Despite significant differences between the US and EU regulatory regimes, taking the steps we recommend will not only make it easier to address the potential risks of nanomaterials but also will increase the likelihood that the US and EU will ultimately implement similar risk management approaches.'

Ends

Contacts in Europe:

Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, 020 7107 5025, email: j.winterstein@lse.ac.uk|

Nicola Norton, Chatham House, 020 7957 5739, mobile: 07917 757528; email: nnorton@chathamhouse.org.uk|

Contacts in North America:

Natalie Chin, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: Tel: +1 (202) 691 4318, email: natalie.chin@wilsoncenter.org|

Brett Kitchen, director of communications and marketing, Environmental Law Institute: Tel: (w) 202-939-3833; (c) 202-355-8811; www.eli.org| or http://twitter.com/ELIORG|

Notes

Securing the Promise of Nanotechnologies: Towards Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperationby Linda Breggin, Robert Falkner, Nico Jaspers, John Pendergrass and Read Porter is launched at an international conference at Chatham House, on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 September 2009. The conference brings together nanotechnology and regulatory experts from the EU and US. It will discuss the policy findings of the report and examine new ideas to enable greater transatlantic cooperation on nanotechnology oversight today and in the future.

As part of the global outreach associated with this report, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will be holding a panel discussion on September 23, 2009 in Washington, DC. For more information and to register for the event: http://www.nanotechproject.org/events/archive/ec/|

About Nanotechnology 
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.

10 September 2009

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