Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars today released
a new report by one of the country's foremost authorities
on environmental research and policy, which examines
the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory
framework for nanotechnology and calls for a new
approach to nanotechnology oversight.
Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology ,
authored by J. Clarence (Terry) Davies, former assistant
administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) during the George H.W. Bush Administration,
argues that better and more aggressive oversight
and new resources are needed to manage the potential
adverse effects of nanotechnology and promote its
“It is the right time to come up with the right
regulatory framework for nanotechnology—a framework
that encourages initiative and innovation, while
also protecting the public and the environment,” Davies
said. “The ideas presented in this report challenge
business and government to work together to nurture
and encourage nanotechnology and to anticipate and
address its adverse effects.”
“Nanotechnology holds tremendous potential—for improvements
in health care, the production of clean water and
energy, and continued advances in our IT infrastructure,” said
William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator, commenting
on the report. “But nanotechnology can only flourish
if industry and government are committed to identifying
and managing the possible risks to workers, consumers,
and the environment. Davies' analysis of the federal
regulatory system and recommendations should spark
a necessary dialogue—among business, government and
citizen groups—about how to move forward as nanotechnology
“Reaching consensus on nanotechnology regulation
that encourages economic innovation and environmental
stewardship will not be easy,” Davies acknowledges, “but
it is a challenge that we cannot ignore.”
Davies argues that some current regulatory approaches
may work for nanotechnology applications. “The Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority it
needs to review and regulate nanotechnology applications
in the areas of drugs and biomedical devices,” Davies
said. “But most of the existing applicable programs
are seriously flawed, lack resources, and require
new thinking and funding.”
The report analyzes the strengths and weaknesses
of existing laws that apply to nanotechnology and
outlines provisions that a new law might contain.
“Nanotechnology is still in its infancy, presenting
a clear opportunity for us to ‘get it right' from
the start,” said David Rejeski, director of the Project
on Emerging Nanotechnologies. The Project is an initiative
of the Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“As we continue to learn the value and benefits
that nanotechnology presents,” noted Rejeski, “it
will be important for us to gain the commitment from
industry and government to successfully position
nanotechnology as the next big economic driver. If
nanotechnology is to succeed, there needs to be a
dialogue around the proactive approach Davies suggests.
Government, business and citizen groups need to exchange
views and discuss options to assure the American
public that as nanotechnology matures, any adverse
health and environmental effects will be identified
and prevented or controlled.”
“There also needs to be more in-depth public policy
analysis that is informed by an understanding of
the risks posed by nanotechnologies and how products
are moving from laboratories to factories, and into
the marketplace. The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
is committed to helping facilitate the necessary
dialogue around nanotechnology and to providing sound
policy choices,” according to Rejeski.
The market opportunity for nanotechnology is substantial.
The National Science Foundation predicts that the
global marketplace for goods and services using nanotechnologies
will grow to $1 trillion by 2015. The U.S. invests
approximately $3 billion annually in nanotechnology
research and development, which accounts for approximately
one-third of the total public and private sector
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate
and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100
nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter;
a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.
“Dr. Davies has offered all who are interested in
the benefits and risks of nanotechnology good, thoughtful
questions to ponder and a series of options to consider,” said
Jim O'Hara, director of policy initiatives and the
Health and Human Services program at The Pew Charitable
Trusts. “Such options and ensuing policy dialogue
are essential to ensure that society manages the
potential adverse effects of nanotechnology and reaps
its tremendous benefits.”
Center formally will release the report at a briefing
today from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. EST at the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
located at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C., 5 th floor conference room.
The briefing will be webcast live at www.wilsoncenter.org .
Terry Davies' report, Managing the Effects
of Nanotechnology , is
available online at www.nanotechproject.org .
J. Clarence (Terry) Davies is
a senior advisor at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
and senior research fellow at Resources for the Future.
He is considered one of the foremost authorities
on environmental research and policy. He co-authored
the plan that created the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and later served as the EPA's assistant
administrator for Policy, Planning and Evaluation.
As a senior staff member of the Council on Environmental
Quality, Davies authored the original version of
what became the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is
an initiative launched by the Wilson Center and The
Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to
helping business, government and the public anticipate
and manage possible health and environmental implications
of nanotechnology. For more information about the
project, log on to www.nanotechproject.org .
The Pew Charitable Trusts is a
national charitable organization serving the public
interest by informing the public, advancing policy
situations and supporting civic life. Based in Philadelphia,
with an office in Washington, D.C., the Trusts will
invest $204 million in fiscal year 2006 to provide
organizations with fact-based research and practical
solutions for challenging issues.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars is the living, national
memorial to President Wilson established by Congress
in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The
Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum
for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a
nonpartisan institution, supported by public and
private funds and engaged in the study of national
and international affairs.
STATEMENT BY WILLIAM K. REILLY
Founding Partner, Aqua International
Administrator, Environmental Protection
January 11, 2006
J. Clarence (Terry) Davies's report, Managing
the Effects of Nanotechnology , probes the
frontier of environmental policy. Davies's analysis
of the federal regulatory system provides an excellent
roadmap that will help policymakers identify potential
oversight gaps and develop better ways to manage
nanotechnology's impacts, both now and in the future.
His recommendations should spark a necessary dialogue—among
business, government, and citizen groups—about
how to move forward as nanotechnology develops
over the coming years.
A similar rational and thoughtful guide to the public
policy issues presented by biotechnology would possibly
have helped us better manage that innovation. Davies'
report can help us get this right.
holds tremendous potential—for improvements
in health care, the production of clean water and
energy, and for continued advances in our IT infrastructure.
It may be the single most important advance of our
age. But nanotechnology can only flourish if industry
and government are committed to identifying and managing
any possible risks to workers, consumers, and the
environment. Government oversight needs to be done
in a way that is transparent, efficient, and predictable,
both for large and small companies as well as for
those who invest in these businesses. Davies's report
presents the first systematic analysis into how such
a balance can be achieved.