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About Nanotechnology

Center for Food Safety

Nanomaterials are rapidly entering the consumer marketplace, including the food industry.  Particles at the nano scale--1/100,000th the width of a human hair--can already be found in items ranging from sandwich bags and cutting boards to paints and sunscreens.  The same unique properties that make nanomaterials desirable to industry also raise unique health and environmental risks.  Scientists are just beginning to understand the potential toxicity of nanomaterials.  Some nanotechnologies may be capable of making significant contributions to medicine or renewable energy. However, if we are to take advantage of any future potential benefits, we must first address the unique risks nanotechnology poses.  While Europe and Canada have taken steps to regulate the use of nanotechnology, the U.S. government has avoided regulation in favor of voluntary, non-binding guidelines.

As our oversight principles explain, the Precautionary Principle is required in order to mitigate any future public health and environmental risks related to nanotechnology.  A precautionary approach requires mandatory, nano-specific oversight mechanisms that address the unique characteristics of nanomaterials.  Worker safety and public and environmental health must be protected by maintaining a focus on critical risk research and immediate action plans to mitigate potential exposures until proven safe.  Regulations must require labeling of nanomaterials from which consumers can be exposed.

Center for Food Safety undertakes domestic and international legal, policy and legislative actions regarding nanotechnology in order to safeguard human health and the natural environment; ensure that all countries adopt adequate regulations for these new chemicals; verify that manufacturers remain responsible for any adverse impacts their products might cause; create transparent oversight and communication regarding the nanotechnologies’ effects and social impacts; and foster open, meaningful, and full public participation at every governmental and non-governmental level.