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2006 Nano Biz...in depth... im detail


UK Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (National)


Companies working at the cutting edge of nanotechnology are being invited to share their knowledge with the Government through a voluntary reporting scheme.

The scheme is designed to gather information quickly about the properties of nanomaterials - particles so small they are measured in billionths of a metre.

Defra today (March 31st) launched a consultation to discuss with industry and others how the scheme might work but stressed that it would remain entirely voluntary.

Defra Minister Lord Bach said: "There is currently very little information on the potential risks posed by nanoscale materials and we want to work with firms who are involved with nanotechnologies in order to better understand the uncertainties in this developing area.

"Of course we're not asking companies to give away any trade secrets but there will be lots of data they can share which will improve the general understanding of nanoparticles and how they behave. This will help us at Defra to pinpoint exactly where more research would be useful and to assess the latest issues thrown up by commercial uses of nanotechnology.

"We are confident that we can work effectively with industry on this and I look forward to hearing their thoughts on the best way to do so."

Professor Hugh Clare, Director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Network, the organisation which supports industries working in the field, said: "The proposed Defra voluntary reporting scheme for engineered nanoscale materials is a very important step forward to ensure that the manufacture and handling of free nano-particulates is carried out in a safe manner. The UK will collaborate with its international partners to pool knowledge."

Commercial products which use nanoparticles include some sunscreens, paints, diesel fuel additives and clothing.

The consultation will run until 23rd June. The consultation document is available on Defra's website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/nanotech/index.htm


1 Nanotechnology refers to the application of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scale where properties differ from those found in the same material in gross form. A nanometre is one thousand millionth of a metre. A human hair is 80,000nm wide, a red blood cell 7,000nm wide and a water molecule 0.3nm wide.

2 In November 2005 the Government's Nanotechnology Research Co-Ordination Group outlined the broad areas where more research into the potential risk of nanoparticles was needed. The group's report, "Characterising the risks posed by engineered nanoparticles: a first UK Government research report" is available on the Defra website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/nanotech/index.htm

Public enquiries 08459 335577;

Nobel House
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London SW1P 3JR
Website http://www.defra.gov.uk

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