Slow federal action to oversee nanotechnology leaves 'room at the bottom'

Apr 09, 2008

State and local governments often have adopted trailblazing initiatives to address environmental, health and safety concerns in advance or in lieu of federal action. With nanotechnology, an emerging field of science with unknown risks, this practice is continuing, a landmark study has found.

“In the absence of action at the federal level, local and state governments may begin to explore their options for oversight of nanotechnology,” says Suellen Keiner, author of the new Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) report, “Room at the Bottom" Potential State and Local Strategies for Managing the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology.” Keiner is the Chief Operating Officer of State of the USA, Inc., a new non-profit organization that is building a system of key indicators to measure economic, environmental and social conditions across the nation.

In regard to oversight of nanotechnology, Berkeley, CA, has taken the lead by adopting an ordinance that requires handlers of nanomaterials to submit toxicology reports on the materials to the city. Elected officials in Cambridge, MA, and Madison, WI, have also begun to look at similar reporting mechanisms. However, the prospect of a patchwork of state and local regulations is cause for concern among policy experts.

“The scenario of having a number of different local regulations is not ideal, but it could serve as a catalyst to force the federal government or Congress – whether through administrative regulation or legislation – to address the potential negative impacts of engineered nanomaterials,” says David Rejeski, the director of PEN.

The report discusses possible options for state and local governments to follow that would allow for oversight of the potential negative impacts of nanotechnology – including local air, waste and water regulations, as well as labeling and worker safety requirements.

Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Explore further: Self-replicating nanostructures made from DNA

Related Stories

Nanotechnology: A risky frontier?

Nov 05, 2009

Inside a cramped back room at Rushford Hypersonic, a start-up headquartered in southeastern Minnesota, sits a cube-like machine that throws a mean atomic fastball. At the push of a button, the reactor hurls atoms toward a ...

NSF Announces Six New Centers for Nanoscale Research

Sep 22, 2004

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced awards of $69 million over five years to fund six major centers in nanoscale science and engineering. These awards complement eight existing centers established since ...

Recommended for you

Self-replicating nanostructures made from DNA

17 hours ago

(Phys.org)—Is it possible to engineer self-replicating nanomaterials? It could be if we borrow nature's building blocks. DNA is a self-replicating molecule where its component parts, nucleotides, have specific ...

Non-aqueous solvent supports DNA nanotechnology

May 27, 2015

Scientists around the world are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures has been limited to water-based ...

Nanosilver and the future of antibiotics

May 27, 2015

Precious metals like silver and gold have biomedical properties that have been used for centuries, but how do these materials effectively combat the likes of cancer and bacteria without contaminating the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.