Hearing on Developments in Nanotechnology (Testimony of Dr. J. Clarence Davies) to the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Davies, J. Clarence (Terry)
Senate Hearing -- Testimony
Vol. 0, Num. 0
This testimony is a summary of a report Dr. Davies was asked to write by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. His credentials include stints at Bowdoin and Princeton as well as service in the EPA, both at the founding in 1970 and more recently in policy. Nanotechnology is promising but entails unknown effects and risks. The public view is still “largely unformed.” We need adequate government oversight to gain public trust, and although someone like Clayton Teague of the NNCO maintains that the current agencies have such authority, and needs no new regulations, he is wrong. “The analysis in my report clearly shows that the existing regulatory structure for nanotechnology is not adequate. It suffers from three types of problems: (1) gaps in statutory authority, (2) inadequate resources and (3) a poor fit between some of the regulatory programs and the characteristics of nanotechnology.” Davies makes mention of cosmetics that are not regulated for health and safety (NB is that right? I seem to remember that cosmetics ARE regulated). Furthermore, the Toxic Substances Control Act assumes that if there is no information about risks, there is no risk. The law assumes a correlation between quantity, volume and degree of risk. Nano-materials may be very different. Davies now argues for new legislation (even though he originally thought he would not). A dialogue should be started between interested parties (companies, the government, the public). He addresses three questions: will there be adverse effects from nanotechnology? Can’t industry be trusted to regulate itself? Don’t we need to wait for new information before we begin regulation? He answers: yes, there are likely to be adverse effects – as some studies already show; no, companies will not do long-term testing because there is no benefit to themselves; and in fact, we are already at the point where existing information can help us regulate the industry. “A survey of EmTech Research of companies working in the field of nanotechnology has identified approximately 80 nanotechnology consumer products, and over 600 nanotechnology-based raw materials, intermediate components and industrial equipment items that are used by manufacturers.” (information from the EPA Exerternal Review Draft Nanotechnology White Paper, December 2, 2005). In order to nurture the industry, we must regulate it. Not to do so is to invite backlash and disaster.