Government Fails to Assess Potential Dangers of Nanotechnology

– You’d think that we’d learn from past mistakes but we don’t seem to. We’ve put hundreds, even thousands, of novel chemicals never before seen by nature out into the environment – often with minimal or no testing. And the results have not been good. DDT and Thalidomide were two high profile examples but there are many others. it is easy for the urban dwellers among us to ignore what’s going on with the disappearing frogs and bees of the world – but it all means something and it doesn’t bode well.

– Now, we’ve created nanotechnology chemistry and we’re moving straight into using these new chemicals and freely distributing them into the environment – again with little or no testing.

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The little beast

Scientists charge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies are failing to assess the potential dangers of puny particles

Pesticide DDT, industrial lubricants PCBs and now plastic BPA (bisphenol A) are all widely used industrial chemical compounds that have been discovered to cause ills such as cancer and/or environmental damage. Worried that the latest chemical craze—nanoparticles (molecules and even atoms engineered at the scale of one billionth of a meter or smaller)—may follow suit, a panel of scientists is urging federal government agencies to assess the potential risks posed by such engineered chemicals and particles before they are used in any more substances.

The National Research Council, one of The National Academies in Washington, D.C., (scientific advisory bodies for the federal government) charges that the 18 government bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tasked with assessing chemical safety, have failed to prove that the diminutive particles are not dangerous. The group also charged in a new report that the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the government body created to oversee such efforts, lacks a coherent plan for ensuring that current and future uses of nanotechnology do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.

Nanotechnology risk research “needs to be proactive—identifying possible risks and ways to mitigate risks before the technology has a widespread commercial presence,” the report says. Instead the NNI “does not have the essential elements of a research strategy—it does not present a vision, contain a clear set of goals [or] have a plan of action.”

More than 800 widely available products, including cosmetics, sporting goods and video displays, contain some form of nanotechnology, whether engineered particles or compounds, according to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (a Washington, D.C. think tank created by Congress in 1968). That number is set to grow as nanotech comes to items such as food additives and medical treatments.

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One Response to “Government Fails to Assess Potential Dangers of Nanotechnology”

  1. […] I’ve been concerned about nanotechnology for sometime ( , , and ).   It’s not that I don’t like the idea and don’t think it has a […]