The European Parliament Science and Technology Options Assessment (EP STOA) has published a report entitled 'NanoSafety - Risk Governance of Manufactured Nanoparticles'. The document, published by the EP's Directorate General (DG) for Internal Policies, 'deals with the potential environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks of engineered nanomaterials (ENM)'.
The report begins by looking at the characterisation and definition of manufactured particulate nanomaterials (MPN), before giving advice useful for the development of legal and regulatory definitions. Based on its advice, it assesses what it considers to be 'basic regulatory approaches' and highlights what it sees as limitations of current risk assessment practices. The document also discusses the importance of risk communication, and as part of that looks at the concerns the general public have regarding nanotechnology as well as the challenges for risk governance.
Highlights from the report include:
- Advice on the criteria that should be considered in any legal definition for nanotechnology, such as the ability to enforce it and a limitation of regulations to be 'limited to human activities and their consequences'
- The conclusion that 'risk characterisation that builds on hazard and exposure assessment is, at this time (and most probably in the short- and medium-term) not feasible or certainly not scientifically reasonable', and the postulation that 'the risk assessment methodology as a whole is inadequate to inform, in a timely manner, political decisions regarding the regulation of nanomaterials'
- An analysis of the general public's attitudes to nanotechnologies, which highlighted that 'the majority of people still have little or no idea of what nanotechnology is or about its possible implications'
- Support for a heuristic approach to risk characterisation and its implementation
- The statement that 'most scholars and practitioners in regulatory law, as well as most political decision-makers, prefer a so-called incremental approach' that involves 'adapting the existing legal framework to enable nanotechnology regulation and amending it in order to deal with the unintended implications of this technology'