Report urges more research on nanotech safety

A report criticises the UK government’s lack of progress in addressing uncertainties over health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials.

A recent report by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering accuses the UK government of slow progress in conducting research on the health and environmental impacts of free nanoparticles. 

The Nanonscience and Nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties report urges the government to control the commercial development of nanotechnologies until appropriate reseach has been conducted. “Proportionate regulation to protect the public and the environment is not possible in the absence of evidence of hazard or risk,” states the report. 

Various sectors such as food, chemicals, electronics, cosmetics and medicine already use or are currently developing nano-applications. However, the behaviour of nanoparticles inside the body (inhaled, swallowed, absorbed through skin or injected) is not yet known. The effects of free nanoparticles on the air or water are also unknown.

In June 2005, the Commission adopted an action plan for 2005-2009 defining actions for the “immediate implementation of a safe, integrated and responsible strategy for Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies (N&N)”. The Commission highlights the need to respect ethical principles and to integrate societal (health, environmental and regulatory) considerations linked to nanotechnologies into the R&D process at an early stage and to encourage dialogue with citizens.

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