Nanotechnology Report Calls for New Government Risk Research Strategy & Funding Embargoed 12:01 a.m. July 19, 2006



    WASHINGTON, July 18 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report by Andrew Maynard,
 chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the
 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, calls for major changes
 in the U.S. government's current handling of nanotechnology risk research.
 His study, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk,
 proposes for the first time a new comprehensive framework for
 systematically exploring nanotechnology's possible risks.
     "Without such an approach," Maynard predicts, "significant knowledge
 gaps -- which currently exist in all areas of nanotechnology risk
 assessment -- will persist. At best, these gaps create uncertainties -- and
 at worst, dangers -- for workers, companies, consumers, investors, and
 insurers."
     According to Maynard's analysis, as little as $11 million of the more
 than one billion dollars the U.S. government annually invests in
 nanotechnology research and development is devoted to highly relevant
 research into what is safe and what is not. In addition to inadequate
 funding, the current federal nanotechnology risk research effort lacks a
 clear strategy and leadership.
     To fill these gaps, Maynard argues that the federal government needs an
 overarching strategy and comprehensive set of research priorities.
 Initially, these would be aimed at identifying and measuring nanomaterials
 exposure and environmental release, evaluating nanomaterials toxicity,
 controlling the release of and exposure to engineered nanomaterials, and
 developing "best practices" for working safely with nanomaterials, and
 eventually at building capacity in predictive toxicology.
     This research effort must be led by federal agencies with a clear
 mandate for oversight and for research of environmental, health and safety
 (EHS) risk -- for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and
 the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Maynard
 estimates that oversight and EHS research agencies need a minimum budget of
 $50 million per year over the next two years to devote to highly relevant,
 targeted nanotechnology risk-based research, if critical knowledge gaps are
 to be addressed. This amount is in addition to a complementary investment
 by federal agencies and departments participating in the National
 Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) on basic and applications-focused research
 that has the potential to help further understanding of nanotechnology risk
 and to aid in the development of improved research tools.
     "With over $32 billion worth of products incorporating nanotechnology
 sold in 2005, the question of whether nanotechnology products and
 applications are safe is one that is not going away," according to Project
 on Emerging Nanotechnologies Director David Rejeski. The Project is a joint
 initiative of the Woodrow Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
     "Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that offers us an opportunity
 to 'get it right' from the start," said Rejeski. "But action is needed now.
 Many of the same novel properties that give nanotechnologies the capacity
 to transform medicines, materials, and consumer products, may also present
 novel risks.
     "For nanotechnology to succeed as the next big economic driver, the
 U.S. government -- working with industry, citizen groups, and partners
 abroad -- needs to develop and invest in a robust risk research strategy to
 ensure that as nanotechnology matures, any potential adverse health and
 environmental effects will be identified and prevented or controlled."
     The market opportunity for nanotechnology is substantial. The National
 Science Foundation predicts that the global marketplace for goods and
 services using nanotechnologies will grow to $1 trillion by 2015. The U.S.
 invests approximately $3 billion annually in nanotechnology research and
 development, which accounts for approximately one-third of total public and
 private sector nanotechnology investments worldwide.
     Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and
 manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one
 billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.
     Dr. Maynard's report, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for
 Addressing Risk, is available online at http://www.nanotechproject.org. A
 detailed inventory and analysis of the current U.S. government risk
 research portfolio and a database of nearly 300 nanotechnology consumer
 products being sold today -- both developed by the Project on Emerging
 Nanotechnologies -- also can be found at that same website.
     The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by
 the Woodrow Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is
 dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and
 manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.
 For more information about the Project, log on to
 http://www.nanotechproject.org.
     The Pew Charitable Trusts is a national charitable organization serving
 the public interest by informing the public, advancing policy solutions and
 supporting civic life. Based in Philadelphia, with an office in Washington,
 D.C., the Trusts will invest $204 million in fiscal year 2006 to provide
 organizations with fact-based research and practical solutions for
 challenging issues.
     The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living,
 national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and
 headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a
 neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan
 institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study
 of national and international affairs.
     CONTACT: Sharon McCarter of Woodrow Wilson International Center for
 Scholars, +1-202-691-4016, sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org.
 
 

SOURCE Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

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