Academies Call for Research into the Uncertainties Surrounding Effects of Nanotechnologies

The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have backed the key findings of the Council for Science and Technology’s (CST) report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies Review published today (Wednesday 28 March 2007).

The CST report evaluates the Government’s progress on commitments it made in response to the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2004 report, Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties.

Professor Ann Dowling, chair of the academies’ nanotechnologies working group which produced this report said:

“This report reinforces the academies’ serious concerns about the Government’s lack of progress on ensuring that these exciting technologies develop in a way that maximises their benefits while minimising any potential risks.

“In particular, more targeted research to reduce the uncertainties around the health and environmental effects of nanomaterials must be funded – especially in light of the growing number of products on the market containing these manufactured ultra small materials. This is a vital step to ensuring that nanotechnologies are well regulated and inspire the confidence of the public and investors.

“At the end of 2005 the Government identified sound priorities for the research needed to inform the development of appropriate safety regulations. However, we can see that the ad hoc approach to funding this research has clearly not worked. This is something the Government must address, by signalling it will set aside earmarked money, when it formally responds to CST’s report.

“Although the UK Government was fast out of the stalls on identifying the critical importance of ensuring that nanotechnologies develop responsibly, its current track record could leaving us trailing other countries. The UK is putting itself in a position where it will be unable to take part in international collaborations because very little research is being done on these issues at home.”

The Royal Society and Royal Academy’s report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties found that most nanotechnologies pose no new safety risks. However, it highlighted uncertainties concerning the potential effects on human health and the environment of manufactured ‘nanoparticles’ and ‘nanotubes’.

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