Nanotechnology, Risks, and Regulatory Options
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The National Science Foundation estimated that revenues from nano-enabled products grew worldwide from about $340 billion in 2010 to $731 billion in 2012, and more than $1 trillion in 2013. The impact of the nanotechnology revolution is undeniable, with vast potential benefits, from consumer products to industrial products, pharmaceutical and military applications, energy technologies, cosmetics, and so on. But along with these benefits come potential risks. As the EPA wrote in 2016, “nanomaterials are very useful, but there is little research about how they affect human and ecosystem health.” Uncertainties about health, safety, and environmental effects, and even about how to define and classify nanomaterials, have persisted. It is certain that regulatory policies in the U.S. and internationally will attempt to address these risks and balance them with the benefits, but several decades of experience reveals that analogies to previous emerging technologies are difficult and regulators have been hesitant to make definitive decisions. In some ways, the regulatory regime that will emerge may be as innovative as the technology that it addresses. In this talk I will examine some of the legally and politically inescapable procedural and substantive aspects of nanotechnology regulation, and identify some of the directions that American regulatory policy might move.
- Nano@Tech Lecture Series