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Nanotechnology: more investment needed to assess risks (11/06)

In less than a decade, nanotechnology is predicted to result in $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods annually, and two million workers will be making these and other nanotechnology products, according to a report by British scholar Andrew Maynard.

Maynard’s article, Nanotechnology: The Next Big Thing, or Much Ado about Nothing?, released late last month by the Annals of Occupational Hygiene (Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Occupational Hygiene Society), noted that little is known about potential risks in many areas of nanotechnology, and funding for risk-focused research is a small fraction of what is being spent on nanotechnology commercial applications. The report concludes that greater resources and attention are needed now in order to ensure safe nano-workplaces today and in the future.

“Because nanotechnology is a way of doing or making things rather than a discrete technology, there will never be a one-solution-fits-all approach for nanotechnology and nanomaterials workplace safety,” wrote Maynard. “That is why the federal government needs to invest a minimum of $100 million over two years in targeted risk research in order to begin to fill in our occupational safety knowledge gaps and to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology workplaces.”

The article will appear in print in January 2007 and currently is freely available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/annhyg/mel071.

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