Engineered Nanoscale Materials and Derivative Products: Regulatory Challenges [Updated July 18, 2008]   [open pdf - 173KB]

This Congressional Research Service (CRS) report is an update to a report of the same name that discusses the nanotechnology and the regulatory issues faced by the scientific community and congress. "Scientists and engineers can now examine, design, and manipulate materials at the molecular level, termed 'nanoscale,' between 1 and 100 billionths of a meter. The U.S. government has invested heavily to ensure that American industry remains a global leader in the field, because the products of nanotechnology are seen to have great economic potential and offer possible solutions to national problems ranging from energy efficiency to detection of agents of biological warfare. Optimism about nanotechnology is tempered, however, by concerns about the unknown potential of nanoscale materials to harm the environment and human health. Some have called for federal regulation of potential environmental, human health, and safety (EHS) risks, arguing that the lack of federal EHS regulations increases the risks of unanticipated adverse consequences due to human or environmental exposure to engineered nanomaterials. The cost of such consequences would depend on their actual, as well as publicly perceived, severity, frequency, and reversibility. The cost to the nanotechnology industry could be great, if consumers responded to a potential threat of harm by indiscriminately rejecting all products of nanotechnology, rather than the offending nanomaterial or an individual application. Others oppose federal regulatory requirements, arguing that they might unnecessarily delay the environmental, health, and economic rewards expected from nanotechnology. Questions about the need for, and ideal form of, nanotechnology regulations are exceedingly difficult to address, given the current state of scientific understanding of engineered nanoscale materials. This report considers certain challenges faced by scientists, entrepreneurs, and government officials involved with nanotechnology research, as they strive to define the characteristics of nanomaterials, the potential EHS risks, and how they might be addressed."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34332
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