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Study Finds EU Leading Way In Nantech Safety
[Rachel's Introduction: The European Commission is playing a leading role in the global debate on responsible nanotechnology through its initiatives such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research. In this code, the Commission specifically asked member states to respect the precautionary principle in research on nanosciences.]
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A new US study shows EU member states invest nearly twice as much as the United States in research addressing the potential environment, health or safety hazards of nanotechnologies.

While the positive potential of nanotech is acknowledged, good understanding its risk potential is necessary, states the US Project on Emerging Nanotechnolgies (PEN) in a risk research inventory update published on 19 April 2008.

The report argues that "comparatively little US government money has been spent on ensuring that scientists know how to control or prevent possible nanotechnology environmental, health, and occupational and general safety (EHS) risks".

According to PEN, just $13 million (€8.16 million) of the total $1.4 billion (€0.878 million) allocated to the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2006 was spent on highly relevant nanotech risk research -- despite government claims that it had spent triple that ($37.7 million).

According to PEN's Chief Science Advisor Andrew Maynard, the US is "guilty of wishful thinking in its assessment of research that will lead to the development of safe nanotechnologies" and is avoiding difficult questions on "what makes a nanomaterial potentially harmful, how it can be used safely, and what happens when it is eventually disposed of".

The project argues that at the same time, European countries together invested some $24 million in this type of research. According to the European Commission's implementation report on the EU nanosciences and nanotechnologies action plan 2005-2009, some €28 million of Community funds have been dedicated to projects specifically focused on risk research since 1998. Safety research is said to "significantly increase" in the bloc's Seventh Framework Programme for R&D (2007-2014).

While no government in the world has developed a specific nanotech regulation to date, everybody agrees that more research on the potential risks of nanoparticles is needed to ensure that asbestos- like scandals do not come back to haunt nanotech companies in the future.

In this regard, it appears that the Commission is playing a leading role in the global debate on responsible nanotechnology through its initiatives such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research (see EurActiv 12/02/08). In this code, the Commission namely asked member states to respect the precautionary principle in research on nanosciences.

The Commission has also recently carried out a review of the current EU legislation to establish whether new regulatory action is required to cover risks in relation to nanomaterials. A communication on the issue, stating no new regulation is needed, will be published by the end of April.

Links Think tanks & Academia

Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN): Europe Spends Nearly Twice as Much as U.S. on Nanotech Risk Research (19 April 2008)

Copyright EurActiv.com
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