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Expert views on regulatory preparedness for managing the risks of nanotechnologies

  • Author(s): Beaudrie, CEH
  • Satterfield, T
  • Kandlikar, M
  • Harthorn, BH
  • et al.
Abstract

The potential and promise of nanotechnologies depends in large part on the ability for regulatory systems to assess and manage their benefits and risks. However, considerable uncertainty persists regarding the health and environmental implications of nanomaterials, hence the capacity for existing regulations to meet this challenge has been widely questioned. Here we draw from a survey (N=254) of US-based nano-scientists and engineers, environmental health and safety scientists, and regulatory scientists and decision-makers, to ask whether nano experts regard regulatory agencies as prepared for managing nanomaterial risks. We find that all three expert groups view regulatory agencies as unprepared. The effect is strongest for regulators themselves, and less so for scientists conducting basic, applied, or health and safety work on nanomaterials. Those who see nanotechnology risks as novel, uncertain, and difficult to assess are particularly likely to see agencies as unprepared. Trust in regulatory agencies, views of stakeholder responsibility regarding the management of risks, and socio-political values were also found to be small but significant drivers of perceived agency preparedness. These results underscore the need for new tools and methods to enable the assessment of nanomaterial risks, and to renew confidence in regulatory agencies' ability to oversee their growing use and application in society. © 2013 Beaudrie et al.

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