UK government report on the potential risks of nanotechnology
9 January 2008
The UK government has produced a second report on the
risks of nanotechnology, Characterising the Potential Risks posed by
Engineered Nanoparticles (1).
In the first report, published in 2005, a set of 19 environmental, health
and safety research objectives were described together with ongoing research
in this area and proposed research activities to be taken forward by the
Nanotechnology Research Co-ordination Group
(NRCG). This was followed in October 2006 by the publication of a report
setting out progress made to meet these 19 objectives.
This new report,
released on 21 December 2007, builds on the 2006 publication, providing an
update on the NRCG’s objectives and associated programme of work. It covers
the activities of five Task Forces and progress on their action plans set
out in the 2006 report to meet the 19 objectives. The Task Forces areas of
- Task Force 1 Metrology, Characterisation, Standardisation and
- Task Force 2 Exposures: Sources, Pathways and Technologies;
- Task Force 3 Human Health Hazard and Risk Assessment;
- Task Force 4 Environmental Hazard and Risk Assessment; and
- Task Force 5 Social and Economic Dimensions of Nanotechnologies.
The report sets out an updated approach for funding additional
research and places UK activities in an international context and
responds to recommendations made by the Council for Science and
Technology (CST) review published in March 2007.
Dowling, chair of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering working
group on nanotechnologies, commented on the report: "The Government has
recognised the huge potential of nanotechnology and recognised what needs to
be done to ensure that advances are realised safely, but by their own
admission progress has been slow in some areas. Given the wealth of
expertise in UK universities and industries we should be further ahead,
particularly in relation to ensuring the safety of manufactured
nanoparticles. In order to speed things up we need to see stronger, clearer
leadership from the Government.
"The benefits of nanotechnology in areas such as improving healthcare
and helping to tackle energy and pollution problems could be massive.
However to realise these benefits we must be fully confident in the
knowledge that they will not have adverse effects on human health and
the environment. Those wishing to exploit the technology need to be
allowed to do so in a regulatory environment that will ensure safety.
That means speeding up the pace of research on the characterisation of
nanoparticles and the human health aspects.
"This report talks about the need for greater coordination and
international cooperation to make faster progress, now is the time for
clear leadership from Government departments and for the talk to be
turned into action."
1. The report, Characterising the Potential Risks posed by
Engineered Nanoparticles. and the earlier reports are available on: