Congress considers nanotech safety high priority

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The House Science and Technology Committee introduced legislation Jan. 15 that is focused on the potential environmental, health and safety risks posed by engineered nanomaterials.

"We know that when materials are developed at the nanoscale that they pose potential risks that do not appear at the macroscale," said David Rejeski, director of Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). "This new bill shows that lawmakers recognize both nanotechnology's enormous promise and possible problems. The legislation reflects mounting Congressional interest in understanding potential risks in order to protect the public and to encourage safe commercial development and investment."

Nanotechnology is the focus of an annual $1.5 billion federal research investment, according to the PEN, an initiative dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.

The new bill, H.R. 554, comes only months after former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official J. Clarence Davies authored a report that makes a series of recommendations for improving federal risk research and oversight of engineered nanomaterials at EPA, the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The report offers a host of proposals for how Congress, federal agencies and the White House can improve oversight of engineered nanomaterials, according to PEN.