July 28, 2004

UK Report: More Hits than Misses on Nanotech

After a year-long investigation, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering released its final report today (July 2004) examining the health, safety, environmental, ethical and societal implications of nano-scale technologies. The report was commissioned by the UK government last June. The UK’s Trade Union Congress today supported the Royal Society’s report and called for strong regulations to prevent worker exposure to manufactured nanoparticles. "There have been plenty of red flags, but the dollar signs have blotted out the warnings signs," said Rory O’Neill, spokesman for the Trade Union Congress.

"The report is a good start toward addressing the potential negative health and environmental impacts of nano-scale technologies, particularly the use of nanoparticles," said Jim Thomas, European Programme Manager of the ETC Group based in Oxford. "Just one year ago Lord Sainsbury [UK Science Minister] said that nanotech was adequately covered by regulations — he was wrong. We welcome the Royal Society’s precautionary language on the environment and strong recommendations on nanoparticles."

Today’s report vindicates many of those, like ETC Group, who have expressed concerns about the dangers of nanotechnology for human health and the environment in the absence of regulatory oversight.

Importantly, the Royal Society considered many broader societal issues and seems to have listened carefully to the key questions raised by Prince Charles in his July 11 editorial on nanotechnology appearing in The Independent on Sunday — who controls nanotechnology and who will benefit from it?

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