This Guest paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to W. Shane Journeay © 2009.
Published here September 2009.

Abstract | Introduction | Nanotechnology is Here Now 
Protecting the Consumer | Difficult to Regulate | What Can Be Done

Difficult to Regulate

There is considerable ambiguity over what constitutes a nanomaterial, thus creating huge challenges for corporations trying to foresee the regulatory hurdles of nanotechnology based products. Furthermore, government agencies are not prepared from a regulatory perspective because deciding what specifically to target for regulation is a complex task. As a result, many nanotechnology-based products are entering the market and at a rapid pace without solid information on their toxicity. At present, there are some groups claiming nanotechnology-based value in their products, while others have nanomaterials in their product and do not report such ingredients.

When we look at recent problems in the environment such as Bisphenol A,[4] it begs the questions, what will the consumer, regulatory, and industrial response be when we have nanomaterials in baby bottles, food packaging, clothing and cosmetics?

The great unknown in nanotechnology is whether the increased production, handling, and exposure to nano-products will lead to adverse effects in humans and the environment. There are at least two camps in this debate. Some say to move forward with the development and wait and see what scientific conclusions can be made about nanomaterials toxicity. At the other end of the spectrum are those who wish for strict adherence to the precautionary principle and hope for a complete moratorium on nanotechnology development before proceeding with research, development, and commercialization.

Nanotechnology is here to stay and it is evolving rapidly with over 800 nano-enhanced products on the market right now. Even in the midst of a recession, nanotechnology will continue to develop and enter consumer products. While nanotechnology holds great promise for medical, energy, and environmental applications, its human and environmental impact will continue to pose a challenge to regulatory bodies and the increasingly 'green-minded' consumer. Moreover, the unknown factors around the environmental health and safety of nanotechnology may pose a challenge to those wishing to commercialize this exciting technology.

Protecting the Consumer  Protecting the Consumer

4. Bisphenol A, or "BPA", is an organic compound that is a key ingredient of several important plastics and plastic additives. Suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s, concerns about the use of BPA in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety. Some retailers removed products made from it from off their shelves.
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