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International risk research strategy and funding needed for nanotech safety

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, the Council for Science and Technologythe British governments top-level advisory body on science and technology issuescriticized the slow progress being made in providing needed support for focused research into the potential hazards of nanotechnology. CSTs comments are contained in a new review of the UK governments response to recommendations made by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering in their landmark 2004 assessment of nanotechnologys opportunities and hazards.

The UK government deserves a lot of credit for commissioning both the ground-breaking 2004 Royal Society report and for submitting itself to a tough review of its performance since then, said Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies chief scientist Andrew Maynard.

The new high-level review concluded that not enough is being done to address uncertainties over the environmental, health, and safety impacts of nanomaterials. The CST found funding support and effective research strategies to be lacking.

The UK is not alone in falling short on funding for research to address the uncertainties surrounding the environmental, health and safety risks of engineered nanoscale materials said Maynard. Altogether, governments in the United States and other nations spend about $5 billion globally each year on nanotechnology research and development. If held up to the same scrutiny, their risk research plans and funding levels would earn equally disappointing marks.

The specific health and safety questions that are important to be addressed for nanotechnology are reasonably straightforward, noted Maynard. And a lot already has been published about what we know and do not know about the potential risks and about how to fill existing research gaps. Far harder is getting governments to set risk research priorities and to develop and sufficiently fund an internationally-coordinated risk research plan for nanotechnology.

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Contact: Sharon McCarter
sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4016
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
27-Mar-2007


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