Nanoproduct companies must perform risk assessment
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Science and Technology Committee recently passed the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 554). The intent is to gain a better understanding of the health and safety risks associated with nanomaterials.
The legislation followed a report by the National Research Council criticizing the current level of oversight regarding nanotechnology products and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s interim report on the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program that stressed the importance of understanding certain risks relating to nanoscale materials and their potential effects on human health and the environment.
Controlled Environments magazine reported the emerging nanotechnology industry would be better off being proactive in its response to these emerging concerns by collecting its own data on the safety of its products, using it in the design of safe products and providing this information to the EPA and other concerned regulatory bodies.
Waiting for the EPA and other regulators to collect general information and interpret it based on potential “worst-case” scenarios across broad classes of nanomaterials may include products that would otherwise be proven safe by exception, even if the company had quality data to address regulatory concerns.
The next five years will be critical to nanotechnology’s commercial success. Even with the current slowdown of the economy, nanotechnology can produce new products, solving current technologic challenges, and creating new markets relatively quickly.
Nanotechnology will produce significant, long-term benefits for society at large, transforming the performance of materials such as polymers, electronics, paints, batteries, sensors, fuel cells, coatings, and computers, and significantly improving healthcare through the development of better medical devices and new treatments and medications.
In fact, nanotechnology is already making substantial improvements to our lives while it enters various markets every day, without any substantial fanfare.
New regulations introduced in the coming year will mark a turning point for those seeking to commercialize their nanoproducts. By encouraging and supporting nanoproduct companies to perform early-stage risk assessments and eliminate problems, well-crafted regulations could make the sector more attractive to investors and the insurance industry, less worrisome to the public, and smooth the path to commercialization substantially.