Responsible Realization of Nanotechnology's Full Potential

The ability to image, measure, model, and manipulate matter on the nanoscale—on the order of a billionth of a meter—is leading to new materials, technologies, and applications across many fields including medicine, information technology, aerospace, energy, and transportation. Advances in nanotechnology are already driving economic growth and addressing a broad range of national challenges.

The realization of nanotechnology’s full potential will require continued research and flexible, science-based approaches to regulation that protect public health and the environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, exports, and job creation.   

In furtherance of those goals, the White House Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC) has developed a set of principles specific to the regulation and oversight of applications of nanotechnology, to guide the development and implementation of policies at the agency level. 

These principles reinforce a set of overarching principles for the regulation and oversight of emerging technologies released on March 11, 2011. They also reflect recommendations from a report on nanotechnology by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The report encourages Federal support for the commercialization of nanotech products and calls for the development of rational, science- and risk-based regulatory approaches that would be based on the full array of a material’s properties and their plausible risks and not simply on the basis of size alone.

Among the goals of all of these documents is the achievement of consistent approaches across different emerging technologies and to ensure the protection of public health and the environment while avoiding unjustifiably inhibiting innovation, stigmatizing new technologies, or creating trade barriers.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

[Editor's Note:  Also today both the EPA and the FDA released documents inviting public comments on approaches those agencies are considering taking to oversee nanomaterials in certain products they regulate.]

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