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PEN Finds U.S. Under-Spending on Assessing Nano Risks

by Editor1 last modified April 24, 2008 - 13:56

A Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) study found U.S. government agencies are spending less than reported to assess potential nanotechnology risks.

PEN Finds U.S. Under-Spending on Assessing Nano Risks

PEN’s assessment of projects focused on nanotechnology risk for FY2006, as identified by U.S. government’s National Nanotechnology Initiative, found the total of risk-focused work was $13 million, less than one-third the $37.7 million for nano-risk research, estimated by government officials.

PEN Chief Science Advisor Andrew Maynard said of the finding: "It appears the U.S. is guilty of wishful thinking in its assessment of research that will lead to the development of safe nanotechnologies. It is trying to substitute research that might inform science's general understanding of possible nanotechnology risks for research that is focused on getting answers to direct questions being asked today--what makes a nanomaterial potentially harmful, how can it be used safely, and what happens when it is eventually disposed"

The PEN report was based on the group’s evaluation of 62 research projects listed in the NNI research strategy--released in February 2008 but without specifics regarding the annual project budget or the applicability of each project to assessing potential hazards--by their relevance to addressing current and future nanotechnology risks.

PEN collected individual project budget data from public sources, and made an estimate funding levels for FY06.

Both the U.S. government figure and the results of the PEN assessment show that less than 3 percent of the $1.4 billion federal nanotechnology research budget was spent on environment, health and safety research." Draft legislation proposed by U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) would amend the NNI act to include a minimum 10 percent mandate for the nanotechnology federal research and development budget devoted to EHS research in the future, amounting to approximately $150 million annually.

The PEN assessment and data is available here.