NanoPundit -Where Society, Science and the Law get really, really small.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Nanoregulations (or Let Them Wear Shirts)

The US needs regulations on the budding nanotechnology industry. Don’t get me wrong, I am probably as anti-regulation as anyone you will find. The fact is that the nano-industry will be regulated and those regulations will go beyond what the chemical industry as a whole is bound by. The U.S. nano-industry needs to come to grips with the fact that regulations are inevitable and get out in the lead so that reasonable and necessary regulations are enacted. If we don’t we should prepare for unreasonable and unnecessary regulations.

Mitsubishi Chemical, through its nanocarbon arm, Frontier Carbon, is working with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to determine what existing regulations can be applied to fullerenes and what new regulations are needed to protect from exposure to nanomaterials. (Source MIT’s Technology Review, Jan 2005, sorry no link). US corporations need to get to the plate and work with federal agencies on this as well.

In the recently released
National Nanotechnology Initiative, which is a must read for anyone in the industry, the areas of interest by the DOE, DOD, EPA NIH, NIOSH AND NSF include:

-Size-dependent and surface coating-dependent disposition of quantum dots when applied to the skin, ingested or instilled into the respiratory tract

-Toxic effects of carbon nanotubes or fullerenes instilled into the respiratory tract compared to the effect of inhalation exposure

-Role of particle core and surface composition in the immunotoxicity of quantum dots and fullerenes

-Dermal penetration and phototoxicology of nanoscale metal oxide particles, such as titanium dioxide used in sunscreens

Sounds scary. The nano-industry must get involved in answering these questions and leading these efforts. The primary function of regulators is to regulate and they will regulate beyond belief unless industry takes the lead.

Another important point is to introduce the American public to the benefits of nanotechnology. As I write I am wearing a
nanoshirt, nano-stain fighting is great but it is not the kind of killer application that drives a society to change or accept any risk. We need to get out to the hustings and teach people about the potential benefits of nanotechnology. Lets push breast cancer cures, fuel cells and terabyte memory, not shirts.


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