NANOTECHNOLOGY : EXPERTS HIGHLIGHT NEED TO INVESTIGATE HEALTH RISKS.

 
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The need to take further measures to ensure the safety of nanoparticles is one of the priorities outlined in an expert opinion on nanotechnology presented to the European Commission on 24 January.

The opinion, which is focused on evaluating ethical aspects of nanomedicine as well as other health-related issues related to nanotechnology, was drawn up by an independent advisory group at the request of Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. It states that existing methods for assessing the toxicity of nanoparticles are "inadequate" and that they need to be adapted or new methods devised. Addressing this present lack of knowledge on toxicity should thus "be considered a top priority for researchers and the relevant authorities".

RISK ASSESSMENT

In order to improve the situation, specific suggestions are set out for action by the Commission. These include amending existing regulations, where needed, in order to ensure that appropriate safety research is carried out before products using nanoparticles are marketed. The group emphasises that it is "paramount that no nano-based products enter the market without risk assessment". Cosmetics are cited a particular cause for concern, and it is recommended that consideration be given to introducing special measures for these in order to reinforce the risk assessment carried out by the manufacturer.

Other actions recommended for the Commission by the group, known as the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), include the creation of a European Network on Nanotechnology Ethics, to be funded through the 7th Framework Programme. This network should "promote deeper understanding of the ethical issues arising from nanotechnology and nanomedicine," and facilitate "the embedding of ethics into research practices". In total, 3% of the FP7 budget for research into nanosciences (which totals 3,475 million) should be set aside for research into ethical, legal and social implications. The Commission should also fund a study of the social effects of nanomedicine in developing countries.

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