Getting Nanotechnology Right the First Time
Issues in Science and Technology
Vol. 21, Num. 4
Nanotechnology's promise does not obviate its risks, and the entire nascent industry could well apply the lessons learned from other technology launches. Identify risks up front, address those risks, and engage the interested parties in a discussion of the same. Reasons for concern include buckyballs and carbon nanotubes, both of which are toxic in fish and rats in some tests. These forms persist in the environment, which is also cause for close attention to manufacturing and disposal of nanomaterials. Failure to study new products with known dangers can cause a great deal of expensive clean-up in future. Balbus and Florini recommend $100 million per year in risk research, a significant increase from current(2005) amounts. The NNI and the EPA should be involved in such research. In addition, "[o]ut of enlightened self interest, industry must take the lead in evaluating and managing nanomaterial risks for the near term," they say. Regulatory policy only addresses a substance with a known and measurable risk; here, the risks are unknown, and so must be managed with a different policy. Corporations as well as other stakeholders should be involved in creating and maintaining that policy.