Hazard debate heightens around nanomaterials

Defra is seeing growing awareness of nanomaterials and their potential hazards, which have the potential to lead to over-precautionary responses that could impact on the waste sector.

The department’s nanotechnologies policy adviser Steve Morgan was speaking at an event in London last week (July 17) held by the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network where he told delegates that while there was a need to understand exposure and risk to these nanomaterials, this hazard-based response was not practical.

Morgan said that measures which were unsupported by evidence of risk could be overly burdensome, difficult to regulate and open to challenge.

He added that Defra was keen to take a risk-based approach to the development of the fledgling nanotechnology industry, maintaining that the goal was the safe production and use of nanomaterials, which contributed to consumer confidence.

Defra’s policy adviser on nanotechnology provided an update on the European regulatory position. One of the challenges, he said, was how to regulate a fast growing industry that was outpacing legislation.

“We need to apply a risk-assessment paradigm for new materials, to quantify and predict potential risks.”

He added: “Quantitative toxicology and risk-assessment can’t keep pace with the accelerated development and if we can’t do something to address that, it’s going to lead to a growing knowledge gap between the materials being produced and the knowledge we need to ensure their safe use.”

Nick Warburton

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