WASHINGTON, DC – With the joint release of Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials, a broad international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new technology and its products.
The manufacture of products using nanotechnology–a powerful platform for
manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter properties–has exploded in recent years. Hundreds of consumer products incorporating nanomaterials are now on the market, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. But evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. In addition, the profound social, economic, and ethical challenges posed by nano-scale technologies have yet to be addressed.
As Chee Yoke Ling of the Third World Network explained, “Materials engineered at the nano-scale can exhibit fundamentally different properties–including toxicity–with unknown effects. Current research raises red flags that demand precautionary action and further study.” She added, “As there are now hundreds of products containing nanomaterials in commerce, the public, workers, and the environment are being exposed to these unlabeled, and in most cases, untested materials.”
George Kimbrell of the International Center for Technology Assessment continued, “Since there is currently no government oversight and no labeling requirements for nanoproducts anywhere in the world, no one knows when they are exposed to potential nanotech risks and no one is monitoring for potential health or environmental harm.
That’s why we believe oversight action based on our principles is urgent.”
This industrial boom is creating a growing nano-workforce which is predicted to reach two million globally by 2015. “Even though potential health hazards stemming from exposure have been clearly identified, there are no mandatory workplace measures that require exposures to be assessed, workers to be trained, or control measures to be implemented,” explained Bill Kojola of the AFL-CIO. “This technology should not be rushed to market until these failings are corrected and workers assured of their safety.”