To the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office on behalf of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)January 31st, 2007Cate Alexander BrennanCommunications Director National Nanotechnology Coordination OfficeArlington, VA 22230Dear Ms. Brennan:In April 2005, a group of ordinary citizens in the Madison, Wisconsin area met several times over a three week period and wrote recommendations regarding nanotechnology research development--see their ‘Report of the Madison Area Citizen Consensus Conference on Nanotechnology,’ which was also submitted to you on Jan. 31st2007. Some of the Consensus Conference participants, in cooperation with faculty in the UW-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center created Madison’s Nano Cafés,1 which are public gatherings designed to educate participants and to provide an opportunity for engagement and critical thought about nanotechnology issues. The 1The Nano Cafés provide a casual atmosphere where non-scientists can hear from experts, ask questions, and share thoughts and concerns. UW-Madison experts explain their work, answer questions and hear ideas from members of the public. For details, see the dedicated website: www.nanocafes.org
citizens who have been involved in planning and organizing the Nano Cafés have formed their own group, the Citizens Coalition on Nanotechnology (CCoN). CCoN members help organize Nano Cafés and make resources on nanotechnology available on our website: http://www.nanocafes.org. We believe that sharing different perspectives is essential to healthy public deliberation and democracy and want to have our say in nanotechnology research directions since these decisions and their outcomes will affect us. We are grateful to be able to submit our comments and are deeply convinced that more funding is urgently needed for environmental, health, and safety research, which we believe should be prioritized as follows. Environmental Health and Safety Priorities
Food SafetyWe think safety of food should be the highest priority, particularly products which are on the market right now. People are ingesting food with engineered nanomaterials in it right now. Engineered nanomaterials are in direct contact with the human body (including blood, organs, and other tissues). Scientists haven’t studied whether or not these nanomaterials are safe or what their health effects might be over the long run. There are still many unknowns; we know very little about the materials used in these foods. Because everyone eats food, food safety affects everyone, particularly children. If food containing nanomaterials turns to be harmful, it could have adverse effects on the perception of nanotechnology, setting off an overreaction that could stop or stall other nanotechnologies that could benefit humans. We request that more research be done on: ∑ the nanomaterials that are already in food products on the market ∑ the potential of nanomaterials used in foods to cross the blood-brain barriers ∑ what kind of health effects nanomaterials in food products have on the digestive system
In the meantime, while this research is being done, we request that food products that include nanomaterials (either natural or engineered) be labeled. Finally, nano food products that are currently in development should not be put on the market until more health and safety research has been done. Safety of non-food consumer products that are already on the market — with a priority on those which involve ingestion or direct contact with the body (e.g., cosmetics, nanoceuticals, textile) Many non-food consumer products containing nanomaterials are also currently on the market. Some of these are being inhaled, ingested or applied on the skin. Again, very little is known about the health effects of these nanoproducts. Therefore, we think there should be a research priority on products that involve ingestion or direct contact with the body (e.g. cosmetics, nanoceuticals, and textile). More specifically, we think the following questions should be addressed as soon as possible: ∑ Do nanomaterials in products put on the skin get through skin? ∑ What long term effects might these materials have? ∑ What kinds of health effects do products that are ingested (nutriceuticals) have on the digestive system? In the meantime, while this research is being done, we request that consumer products that include nanomaterials (either natural or engineered) be labeled. Finally consumer products containing nanomaterials that are in development right now should not be put on the market until more health and safety research has been done. Environmental ReleasesNanomaterials in products that are on the market right now have already entered the environment and, if not, will in the future. Some nanomaterials are being used intentionally for environmental remediation. If they are in the air, the soil, and the water, they are likely to enter human bodies, affect wildlife, and they may also have irreversible eco-system effects.