Risk Management and Regulation in an Emerging
Nanotechnology – the use of particulate material at such a small scale that its properties are determined by size and surface condition as well as bulk properties – has been heralded as oﬀering the potential to revolutionize many industrial sectors and medical practices. Nanotechnology also presents problems in managing risks to human health and the environment which are explored here, drawing on the report of a Working Group set up by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, in the UK. Taking an anticipatory approach to assessing the beneﬁts and regulating the risks from an emerging technology is itself novel (European Commission, 2004b). Very little is known about the risks to human health and the environment from nanomaterials, so that a precautionary approach is advocated. Stopping short of the moratorium on production and use of nanomaterials advocated by some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), restrictions on the technology are recommended including regulating nanomaterials as new chemicals, planning end-of-life management of products containing nanomaterials and a presumption against release of manufactured nanomaterials into the environment. The UK Government’s response lacks detail, but appears to have accepted most of the key recommendations. Based on this experience, conclusions are drawn for the regulation of other emerging technologies in future.