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Environment

Better laws needed for nanotech

January 16, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 3

The current regulatory framework is not sufficient to deal with the issues raised by nanotechnology, according to a report released last week by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The independent report is authored by J. Clarence Davies, former assistant administrator at EPA, and argues for improved oversight of this emerging field. Davies notes that, in the short term, revising existing laws such as EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act may be reasonable but that the long-term solution will likely require new laws. One area Davies highlighted as needing new laws is the use of nanotechnology in consumer products. Numerous nanoparticle-containing products, such as cosmetics and clothing, are already on the market, yet little oversight exists for these products, he notes. The report also finds that regulatory agencies that would be monitoring nanotechnology issues, such as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, are severely understaffed and unable to properly do their jobs. "It is the right time to come up with the right regulatory framework for nanotechnology-a framework that encourages initiatives and innovation, while also protecting the public and the environment," Davies said in a statement.

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