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Let’s put nanotechnology in larger chemical context

Recently there have been a spate of media articles triggered by a July 13 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office to the effect that, as an LA Times piece put it: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to protect the public from tens of thousands of toxic compounds because it has not gathered data on the health risks of most industrial chemicals, according to a report by the investigative arm of Congress to be released today. The report by the Government Accountability Office found that chemical companies had provided health data to the EPA for about 15% of chemicals that had been introduced over the past 30 years. In addition, the report said the EPA had sought information about health dangers for fewer than 200 of the tens of thousands of industrial compounds that had been in use since before the late 1970s.”

Given this situation, rather than call for special regulation of nanoparticles, perhaps we should develop a coherent policy that takes into account possible environmental and health effects of both chemicals and materials, new and old, and that balances costs, benefits, and opportunity costs.–CP

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