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Press Releases :: October 31, 2007

Subcommittee Examines Relationship Between Environmental and Health Policy and Nanotechnology

(Washington, DC) – Competition in the 21st century global marketplace and development of new technologies to support that economy has been a topic of investigation and study in recent years by the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee.

That assessment continued today with a look into the potential risks to the environment and human health associated with the developing field of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, which involves the manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular levels, has resulted thus far in the development and marketing of more than 580 medical, cosmetic, electronic and automotive products. Yet, to date, there is not a comprehensive federal nanotechnology risk research strategy.

Today, Subcommittee Members examined how the U.S. can stay at the forefront of scientific research and development, while at the same time establishing priorities and a detailed plan for research on the potential environmental and health risks of engineered nanomaterials.

During the hearing Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (WA-03) stated, “Nanotechnology is a tremendously complex field involved in the development of hundreds of products and amounts to billions of dollars in revenue for a variety of companies. However, there is little understanding of potential environmental and health risks of nanotechnology. It’s clear that we need a comprehensive strategy to address these concerns.”

The Science and Technology Committee held two previous hearings on this issue – one in 2005 and another in 2006 – with the objective of reviewing the importance of risk research for achieving the potential benefits of nanotechnology and the efforts of the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to put in place a research strategy.

However, progress in developing the research strategy by a working group from government agencies has been slow. According to witness Dr. Andrew Maynard, “ … the overall federal government response to identifying and managing nanotechnology risks can only be described as slow, badly conceptualized, poorly directed, uncoordinated and underfunded.”

This hearing explored the status of the planning efforts and received suggestions from outside witnesses on ways to improve the process.

Witnesses at the hearing included: Dr. Clayton Teague, Director of the Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO); Mr. Floyd Kvamme, Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); Dr. Vicki Colvin, Executive Director, International Council on Nanotechnology and Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Rice University; Dr. Andrew Maynard, Chief Science Advisor, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Dr. Richard Denison, Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense; and, Mr. Paul D. Ziegler, Chairman of the Nanotechnology Panel, American Chemistry Council, and Global Director, PPG Industries, Inc.



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