Engineered Nanoscale Materials and Derivative Products: Regulatory Challenges [Updated March 24, 2008] [open pdf - 167KB]
From the Summary: "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 publically [sic] perceived, severity, frequency, and reversibility. […] If it does, it might choose any of several approaches. Possible approaches include increasing funding for workshops in standardization or other research relevant to identifying and possibly ameliorating any environmental or human health and safety concerns associated with nanomaterials; changing the allocation of research money among agencies or the interagency research management structure; adopting a national or international research strategy; or enacting legislation that authorizes, mandates, or constrains agency actions to require information collection or to restrict production, sale, use, or disposal of nanomaterials. Each risk management approach has potential positive and negative consequences that Congress may want to consider."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34332