The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) recently adopted an opinion on "the appropriateness of existing methodologies to assess the potential risks of nanotechnologies". Delivered at Commission's request, the report concludes that current risk assessment methodologies require some modification to deal with hazards associated with nanotech.
The report states that "in particular, the existing toxicological and ecotoxicological methods may not be sufficient to address all of the issues arising with nanoparticles". SCENIHR also points out that very little is know about the physiological responses to nanoparticles. Therefore, the conventional toxicity and ecotoxicity tests may require modification regarding hazards evaluation and the detection of nanoparticle distribution in the human body and in the environment.
Nanoforum, a pan-European nanotechnology network funded by the EU, has published a report on the current state of art of the European and global debate on benefits, risks, ethical, legal and social aspects of nanotechnology. It comes to the same conclusion as SCENIHR by stating that the most pressing issue in the current political debate on nanotechnology is the research on risks for health and environment of nanoparticles. Health impacts of nanoparticles currently under investigation include risks of lung and heart diseases from inhaled nanoparticles, accumulation of non-biodegradable nanoparticles in the liver and uptake into the brain.
The Nanoforum report also highlights the importance of realistically taking into account the long-term visions and scenarios of proponents and opponents of nanotech, including science fiction writers, as they influence public opinion.