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Consumers neutral on risks, benefits of nano

e tires and refrigerator gas coolant. This is the first large-scale study to experimentally gauge the public's reaction to specific, nano-containing products, and Currall said the use of scenarios about plausible, specific products yielded results that challenge the assumption that the public focuses narrowly on risk.

"It was clear that people were thinking about more than risk," he said. "The average consumer is pretty shrewd when it comes to balancing risks against benefits, and we found that the greater the potential benefits, the more risks people are willing to tolerate."

Study co-author Neal Lane, who helped craft the U.S.'s National Nanotechnology Initiative during his tenure as director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the public is likely to become more aware of nanotechnology's risks as environmental health and safety research is completed and as nanomaterials find their way into more products. What remains to be seen is whether the public's budding perceptions of the benefits of nanotechnology will also grow, he said.

"We propose that academic bodies like the UK's Royal Society and the US's National Academies set up interagency clearinghouses to coordinate public education and synthesize the latest scientific findings," said Lane, senior fellow in science and technology at Rices Baker Institute for Public Policy. "Transmitting the latest information about both risks and benefits, in a timely, thorough and transparent way, will minimize the likelihood of a polarized public debate that turns on rumor and supposition."


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Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
5-Dec-2006


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