Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology

Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology (NT) is the production and use of materials at the smallest possible scale—100 nanometers or less. One hundred nanometers is approximately 1/800th the width of a human hair and 1/70th the diameter of a red blood cell. Materials at the nanoscale often exhibit very different physical, chemical, and biological properties than their normal size counterparts. While we know little about possible adverse effects of nanotechnology, we know enough to recognize that there needs to be some type of governmental oversight to ensure that public health and safety are not adversely affected. The paper, Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology, reviews the options currently available to provide oversight, looking at the entire suite of federal government regulations, and concludes that:

  • Nanotechnology is difficult to address using existing regulations.
  • A new law may be required to manage potential risks of nanotechnology.
  • New mechanisms and institutional capabilities are needed.

If nothing specific is done to manage nanotechnology's possible adverse effects, a range of undesirable developments could emerge.The public potentially would be left unprotected, the government would struggle to apply existing laws to a technology for which they were not designed, and industry would be exposed to the possibility of public backlash, loss of markets, and potential financial liabilities. The challenges presented by nanotechnology are as many and varied as the promises that NT holds for a better life. If nanotechnology is to fulfill its promise, society must openly face the issues of whether the technology has or could have adverse effects, what these effects are, and how to prevent them in the future.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies on PewHealth.org.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.