A document recognizing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research and information needs related to understanding and management of possible risks of engineered nanoscale materials was released by the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology. The report is accessible at www.nano.gov.
The document will be useful for Federal agencies taking part in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in informing and guiding research programs. Industry, universities, and other nongovernment research entities can also benefit from this document by obtaining the knowledge and understanding necessary to enable risk assessment and management of nanomaterials.
Nanotechnology is expected to contribute to scientific and technological advances in a wide range of fields, including energy, electronics, materials, and medicine. Many of the benefits of nanotechnology arise from the fact that nanomaterials exhibit properties and behavior different from those of materials at larger scales. At the nanoscale, material properties vary as the function of size, which not only enables new benefits, but also may lead to health and environmental risks.
That a technology could offer both benefits and, at the same time, potential risk is not unique to nanotechnology. Other common examples are electricity, household cleaning supplies, gasoline, and medical X-rays. When risks are understood, however, they can be successfully managed and the benefits of the technology can be realized.
"This document is extremely important in that it is the result of a highly collaborative effort by the Federal agencies that participate in the NNI to identify and agree upon major EHS research needs. It reflects inputs from the Federal regulatory agencies and describes the EHS research and information needed to enable sound risk assessment and risk management decision making," said Dr. Clayton Teague, Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.
"Information regarding the risks and benefits of nanomaterials will be utilized by regulatory bodies that are responsible for protecting public health and the environment and will be an integral part of the interagency process by which Federal nanotechnology EHS research is coordinated."
Dr. Teague noted that the document is a result of a comprehensive, two-year effort by the scientists and other agency representatives comprising the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications Working Group of the NSET. Recommendations from industry liaison groups and other reports on EHS research needs were considered in the creation of the document.