By Dan Shapley
The Natural Resources Defense Council today called for national standards to ensure that hundreds of products being introduced with nanoparticles are safe for human health and the environment. In a report
released today, "Nanotechnology's Invisible Threat: Small Science, Big Consequences," NRDC accused the federal government of "gross failure" to protect citizens from potentially dangerous nano-scale chemistry. Nanotechnology deals with the use of particles at a scale of one billionth of a meter - a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair. Precautionary regulation must play âcatch up'' to ensure worker and public safety. Without requirements for product labeling, consumers are left ignorant and vulnerable to exposure to an untested and possibly unsafe new generation of chemicals. People deserve unbiased information to protect their families, Jennifer Sass, author of the report, said in a news release. The report recommended these three guidelines:
1. Prohibit the untested or unsafe use of nanomaterials. Because preliminary data demonstrates the potential for toxicity, unsafe or untested nanomaterials should not be used in a manner that may result in human exposures or environmental releases over the lifecycle of the material. 2. Conduct full lifecycle environment, health, and safety impact assessments as a prerequisite to commercialization. Robust testing is urgently needed to identify potential risks early in development, across the lifecycle of the material. The results of testing should be made available to thepublic. 3. Facilitate full and meaningful participation by the public and workers in nanotechnologies development and control; consider the social and ethical impacts of nanotechnologies. Thepotential of nanotechnologies to transform the global social, economic, and political landscape meanswe must move the decision-making out of corporate boardrooms and into the public realm.
The NRDC said that studies had linked some nano-sized air pollutants to asthma and other lung diseases, and to heart disease and stroke. Nanomaterials may pass easily into the bloodstream when inhaled, swallowed or applied to the skin, according to a May 15 story in Business Wire.