Current status of environmental regulations for nanotechnologies
The relationship between nanotechnologies and the environment is complex and multi-faceted. On one hand, nanotechnologies already promise to offer affordable solutions to major issues which were previously considered a challenge almost beyond resolution. For example, nanotechnologies are being developed or in existence which can remove or inactivate pollutants within land, sea and air; offer more efficient use of resources, renewable energy and environmental monitoring; or provide simple and affordable solutions for water purification in third world countries. In addition, many of the nanotechnology-enabled solutions being developed for use within an environmental context promise to be cleaner and safer than the older technologies they replace.
However on the other hand, the environmental impact of many nanoparticles or nanotechnology-enabled products is yet to be fully understood, and as a result many are wary of its rapid entry into the world market, fearing unforeseen detrimental outcomes or a potential public backlash. Furthermore, the scope of potential environmental impact from nanotechnologies is huge, spanning introduction to the environment throughout their lifecycle - from manufacture, through use and at disposal - all stages of which may carry different potential impacts. Based on this uncertainty, there is much debate ongoing about the requirement for specific regulation of nanotechnologies within the environment.
Several regulatory bodies are currently active in the investigation or in some cases regulation of nanomaterials under existing environmental regulations. A summary of the outputs from these bodies can be accessed using the links below.