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Nanotechnology oversight requires thinking outside the box

WASHINGTON, D.C.With hundreds of nanotechnology-enabled products already on the market and many more in the commercial pipeline, a new report by a former senior Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official urges policymakers to give greater attention to the challenges of crafting an oversight system that can effectively address health and safety issues particular to nanoscale materials and devices.

"It is time for government, industry, the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties to begin a more systematic discussion about the core elements of an oversight framework for nanoscale materials" writes Mark Greenwood in Thinking Big About Things Small: Creating an Effective Oversight System for Nanotechnology. Greenwood worked for EPA for over 16 years and was director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics from 1990 to 1994.

The report was released at an event sponsored by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Project is a partnership between the Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Public discussions of nanotechnology oversight over the last few years have been dominated by two topics: research priorities and the potential jurisdiction of various health and environmental statutes over nanoscale materials," said Greenwood. "Not enough attention is being given to the policies that should be used to define acceptable and unacceptable risk and to determine appropriate management practices."

Greenwood distills three sets of issues that he proposes as the defining elements of an effective oversight system: risk criteria, information reporting requirements and risk management tools. The report identifies, in each of these three areas, some of the key policy questions that will be particularly important to consider, regardless of the form of oversight. Greenwood also emphasizes that the policies established
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Contact: Julia Moore
julia.moore@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4025
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
14-Mar-2007


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