Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology, defined for these purposes as the use, manipulation or control of materials at the nanometer scale, potentially offers both astounding social, medical, and technological benefits as well as frightening health and environmental harms. Despite the paucity of comprehensive testing of nanomaterials, there is a growing body of evidence that exposure to some types of nanoparticles may pose significant health risks to workers and the general public. The very properties that make engineered nanomaterials valuable—small size, large surface area and highly variable physical and chemical characteristics—both complicate our ability to monitor exposures to nanomaterials and increase the potential that some categories of nanomaterials will prove harmful. Yet nanomaterials already are present in hundreds of consumer and industrial applications, while subject to minimal regulation in the United States and elsewhere.

This tension between the expected benefits of emerging nanotechnologies and nanomaterials and the potential hazards associated with them, has created significant debate regarding the appropriate type of regulatory response, ranging from a moratorium to industry self-regulation and virtually everything in between. STPP is actively engaged in the debate, providing empirical research, legal and policy analysis, technical support to policymakers and NGOs, education, and outreach. Some of the past and ongoing projects conducted by STPP researchers in collaboration with partners such as the UCLA Center on Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) include:

•Evaluation of DTSC’s Carbon Nanotube Information Call-In
•Development of a Methodology for Prioritizing Nanomaterials for Regulatory Action
•Identification, Evaluation and Diffusion of Best Management Practices for Nanomaterials
•The UCLA Working Conference on Nanotechnology Regulatory Policy

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