While new report calls for greater nanotechnology regulation, public not so sure
A new report from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars says more aggressive oversight and new resources are needed to manage the potential adverse effects of nanotechnology. The report, authored by Terry Davies, former assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, outlines the range of laws and regulations in place to protect people and the environment, and finds each one wanting when it comes to nanotechnology.
The report made mainstream headlines in venues like the Washington Post, United Press International, and National Public Radio. The NPR report contained some odd comments. For example, " Scientists say that super-small particles and fibers produced through nanotechnology will soon be in everything from cosmetics to computer chips to tennis rackets. " It' s misleading to say they' ll soon be in these materials when they are in fact already in all of them. " These microscopically minuscule materials, " the report continues, " smaller than a red blood cell and much thinner than a human hair, could have all kinds of commercial applications in everything from crash resistant cars to stain proof clothing. " Much thinner than a human hair? Try 100,000 times thinner. And once again, what' s with the " could have " applications in crash resistant cars and stain proof clothing when nanomaterials are already used in these very products?
These statements create the impression that the application of nanotechnology to everyday products is still a ways off when in fact it is here now. And that' s a significant blunder when you' re talking about regulation because it could lull people into thinking they need to understand and form an opinion about nanotech " someday " before it hits the market (and the environment). But that someday is here now.
On the other hand, most people don' t appear too stressed out about nanotech regulation. A new survey, for example, finds 43% of US citizens approve of the use of nanotechnology as long as the usual levels of government regulation and control are in place.