Science and Technology Innovation Program

Nanotechnology: A Unique Opportunity to "Get It Right"

Former EPA Official Says Nanotech Needs New Oversight and Resources

Feb 15, 2006

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) held a Full Committee Hearing on "Developments in Nanotechnology." Among the witnesses was Dr. J. Clarence Davies, senior advisor, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Davies authored a new report released in January 2006, which examines the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory framework for nanotechnology. In the report, Davies calls for a new approach to nanotechnology oversight. His testimony largely was drawn from that study.

"Nanotechnology may hold the key to meeting many of the most serious problems our society faces, especially in the areas of medicine, energy production, environmental remediation, and clean manufacturing. It potentially could have huge economic and social benefits," according to Davies. "But existing regulatory structure does not provide adequate protection for human health and the environment. It suffers from gaps in statutory authority, inadequate resources, and a poor fit between some of the regulatory programs and the characteristics of nanotechnology."

"Given all of the shortcomings of the existing system," he said, "I believe that it is in everyone's interest to start thinking about what a new law focused on nanotechnology might look like while aggressively closing gaps in the current system, especially in areas such as cosmetics."

"We have a unique opportunity to ‘get it right' this time, and, by doing so, reduce risks to human health and the environment, ensure public confidence in nanotechnologies, and realize the full potential of this new technology."

Davies' written testimony and his report, Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology are both available online: www.nanotechproject.org or www.wilsoncenter.org/nano.

More information on the hearing can be found online: http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1736

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was launched in 2005 by the Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts. It is dedicated to helping business, governments, and the public anticipate and manage the possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.




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