This week’s Nature has a Commentary piece (editor’s summary here, subscription required for full article) from the great and good of nanoparticle toxicology, outlining what they believe needs to be done, in terms of research, to ensure that nanotechnology is developed safely. As they say, “fears over the possible dangers of some nanotechnologies may be exaggerated, but they are not necessarily unfounded,” and without targeted and strategic risk research public confidence could be lost and innovation held up through fear of litigation.
Their list of challenges is intended to form a framework for research over the next fifteen years; the wishlist is as follows:
Some might think it slightly odd that what amounts to a research proposal is being published in Nature. They give a positive view for stressing this program now. “Nanotechnology comes at an opportune time in the history of risk research. We have cautionary examples from genetically modified organisms and asbestos industries that motivate a real interest, from all stakeholders, to prevent, manage and reduce risk proactively.” Some indication of the potential downside of failing to be seen to move on this is seen in the recent results of a citizen’s jury on nanotechnology in Germany, reported today here (my thanks to Niels Boeing for bringing this to my attention). These findings seem notably more sceptical than the findings of similar processes in the UK.