Nanotechnology: consumers must be convinced benefits outweigh risks

Washington -- There is no doubt that nanotechnology has the potential to make the world a better place, said Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Chief Scientist Andrew Maynard. But if consumers and other stakeholders are not convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks, many applications will not see the light of day. Likewise, if the benefits are unclear and the risks uncertain, the products of nanotechnology will be a hard sell.

Dr. Maynards remark is in his presentation today before a public meeting of the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). He spoke as part of a panel devoted to addressing and managing the potential health, environmental and safety risks of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is turning our world upside down...It also is shaking up our understanding of what makes something harmful and how we deal with that, according to Maynard. He described the current U.S. policy toward managing the possible health and safety risks of nanotechnologies as approaching 21st century technologies with a 20th century mindset.

Maynard called on the federal government to develop a goal-driven risk research strategy to provide decision-makersincluding regulators, industry and consumerswith the scientific information they need to help develop and use nanotechnologies as safely as possible. He suggested an international approach to this challenge based on a set of strategic research questions developed by thirteen top scientists last year which were published in the journal Nature.

The paper, Safe handling of nanotechnology (Maynard et al., Nature, vol. 44, 16 November 2006), was praised as a landmark in the history of nanotechnology research by the then chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and ranking member Bart Gordon (D-TN) of the U.S. Congresss House Science Committee. In a statement about the papers findings, the Congressmen said they both had made it clear that they felt the Administration was mov

Contact: Alex Parlini
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

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