Warning over nanotechnologyWhich? asks government to heed scientists' advice

19 September 2007

 

Scientist using a microscope

Simon watches an army of mites wage war on red spider mite

Which? is warning the Government to listen to the advice of top scientists and make understanding nanotechnologies a top priority. 

These technologies use materials on an incredibly small scale and can bring many potential benefits - from more effective medicines to self-cleaning windows.

Yet despite repeated calls from expert scientific bodies, the government is failing to address fundamental uncertainties about how some materials will behave at this small scale.

Which? is concerned that in the rush to put nano-products on the market – it is estimated that there are already over 500 available to consumers* - the potential health and environmental risks are not being properly addressed.

Which? direction 

The Which? has issued the Government with a ten point action plan which includes:

  • Setting up a strategic stakeholder group to push through the actions needed
  • Making research into health and environmental risks a priority
  • Ensuring the public is consulted through a UK-wide debate about the direction of nanotechnologies

Which? chief policy advisor Sue Davies said: 'Nanotechnologies have the potential to offer many exciting benefits. But before the market is flooded with products, it’s crucial the government addresses the lack of scientific understanding about some of their uses. 

'The public needs to be consulted and involved in the decisions about the issues raised by nanotech – the potential risks and benefits and their future direction.'

Nanotechnologies are a group of technologies that use materials on an incredibly small scale: one nanometre is a millionth of a millimetre, about the equivalent of one eighty thousandth of a human hair. At this scale, materials have different properties that enable them to be used in different ways.

* In May 2007, The Woodrow Wilson Center produced a global inventory of nanotechnology consumer products on the market.