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Nanotechnology holds promise

Posted: 09/17/08 at 8:52 PM

I thought I would take a few minutes to update you all on nanotechnology news, which is a hot topic at the moment.

Nanotechnology has been all over the news, and for good reason. Nanomaterials have the potential to make clothing more durable, fight disease, clean water, make building materials lighter and stronger, and more that remains undiscovered. However, there is a desire on some people’s part to put a brake on these advancements. If industry does not take the opportunity to support and take part in the regulatory process now, the consequences of restrictive rules could be stifling to innovation and business.

Congress is currently considering legislation on nanotechnology: H.R. 5940 and S. 3274, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008. This legislation would create a public database of information on nanomaterial EH&S research and create a senior-level position within the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) to oversee nanotech EHS research, in addition to reauthorizing nano R&D funding from the 2003 21st Century Nanotechnology R&D Act. The bill has passed the House and is currently awaiting action by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Businesses should also pay close attention to the regulatory front. Both EPA and FDA are considering guidance on nanotechnology, and are soliciting industry for data and input. The EPA’s nanomaterials stewardship program is currently voluntary and a great opportunity for companies to help prevent unnecessarily proscriptive rules. SOCMA has a Nanotechnology Small & Medium Enterprise Coalition designed to support companies in collaborating with other businesses and with the EPA to collect and submit data voluntarily on nanomaterials.

In addition to softening the regulatory impact, supporting this voluntary program could go a long way towards preventing a public panic over this emerging technology and the resulting knee-jerk legislation. This is a great time for companies to highlight their partnership with EPA and their support for safe, useful nanotechnology. The EPA has given industry an opportunity for input. Wise companies will use these resources to the fullest extent possible.

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