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Getting it right the first time: developing nanotechnology while protecting workers, public health, and the environment.

Abstract

Nanotechnology, the design and manipulation of materials at the atomic scale, may well revolutionize many of the ways our society manufactures products, produces energy, and treats diseases. Innovative nanotechnology products are already reaching the market in a wide variety of consumer products. Some of the observed properties of nanomaterials call into question the adequacy of current methods for determining hazard and exposure, and for controlling resulting risks. Given the limitations of existing regulatory tools and policies, two distinct kinds of initiatives are urgently needed: first, a major increase in the federal investment nanomaterial risk research, and second, rapid development and implementation of voluntary standards of care pending development of adequate regulatory safeguards. The U.S. government should increase federal funding for nanomaterial risk research under the National Nanotechnology Initiative to at least $100 million annually for the next several years. Several voluntary programs are currently at various stages of evolution, though the eventual outputs of each of these are still far from clear. Ultimately, effective regulatory safeguards, harmonized globally, are necessary to provide a level playing field for industry while adequately protecting human health and the environment.

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