House Amends Nano Law to Strengthen Focus on Health, Environmental Risks

June 6, 2008
Contact:  Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,
Richard Denison, 202-387-3500,


(Washington, D.C. – June 6, 2008)  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the U.S. House of Representatives today for passing the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 5940) by a vote of 407-6. EDF says the measure will help address critical environmental, health and safety (EHS) concerns that could arise from use of nanotechnology.

“The bill calls for much-needed changes both in the planning and decision-making processes of the NNI as they relate to EHS questions,” said Dr. Richard A. Denison, a senior scientist for Environmental Defense Fund. “It should also improve the extent and transparency of EHS-related information to be made publicly available. Overall, this bill should help substantially to achieve a better balance between the federal government’s dual roles in developing and advancing nanotechnology and in identifying and reducing its potential risks.”
EDF identified the following provisions as being particularly noteworthy:

Bill Provision
Current problem addressed
Public information: Requires development and maintenance of a public database that identifies each EHS-related project funded under the NNI, its source and amount of funding, and its relevance to the major EHS research objectives.
Lack of transparency in NNI’s public accounting for the amount of funding and relevance of currently funded activities to addressing EHS research needs.   
Independent advice: Establishes “as a distinct entity” an Advisory Panel and requires designation of a subpanel whose members have expertise specific to EHS and other societal dimensions.
Corrects current use of the White House’s PCAST as the NNI’s advisory/oversight body; ensures appropriate expertise among advisors.
Senior coordinator for EHS activities: Designates an associate director within OSTP to oversee agency activities to address EHS (and other societal) concerns.
Lack of individual with responsibility and authority to conduct super-agency oversight of EHS efforts.
EHS research plan: Mandates detailed plan with interim milestones, actual and estimate needed timing and resource allocations to achieve identified objectives.
Failure of NNI to develop a comprehensive, accountable EHS research strategy.
Green nanotechnology: Expands mandate of NNI-funded research centers to include research to develop safer nano products and applications and foster technology transfer and education on green nanotechnology.
No specific focus on such directed research currently.