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September 21st, 2008

Nanotech guidebook for the next president

Published on September 21st, 2008 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
J. Clarence Davies

J. Clarence Davies

Seizing the opportunity to educate and possibly influence the incoming president and his policymakers, former EPA official J. Clarence Davies has issued a report said to provide the new administration with a “how-to” guide for managing nanotechnology’s risks, benefits and oversight shortfalls. “The future of the technology is in the hands of the incoming administration. The shape of the future will depend significantly on what the new government does,” Davies contends. Davies’ report, Nanotechnology Oversight: An Agenda for the New Administration, encourages lawmakers to make better use of existing laws. Specifically, it recommends defining nanomaterials as “new” substances, enabling them to be regulated by the EPA and FDA. It also calls for new federal pesticide and workplace safety laws to guard society against nanotechnology’s potentially harmful consequences. The report also stresses the need to follow up policy changes made in the immediate future with longer-term oversight measures. As an example, Davies cites two high-liability areas cosmetics and dietary supplements that currently are “essentially unregulated” and need to be addressed. He also hones in on key areas where he believes oversight will be needed in the near future. Climate change, food,  security, water purification and health care are just a few of the nanotechnology “hot spots” his report points out. To solve such problems, Davies urges the new administration to push for amendments to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act; the Toxic Substances Control Act; and the Consumer Product Safety Act. Davies’ report also emphasizes the need for financing, warning that without increased funding and staffing for appropriate agencies many of the actions his report calls for will not be feasible. To stress this need, he quotes David Rejeski, the director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

“In order to ensure the safe development of this rapidly advancing technology, which is projected will enable 15 percent of globally manufactured goods worth $2.6 trillion by 2014, there needs to be an increase in nanotechnology risk research monies in the fiscal year 2009 budget to $100 million and in FY 2010 to $150 million.”

Davies concludes his report with another quote from Rejeski and this challenge:

“Potential risks of nanoscale materials have already been identified, and for the world to realize the benefits of this technology, the next administration must act swiftly and carefully. This will be a challenge, but one that could have limitless opportunities to improve the world in the 21st century.”


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