The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) was appointed “to advise [the UK government] on matters, both national and international, concerning the pollution of the environment; on the adequacy of research in this field; and the future possibilities of danger to the environment.” On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, the Commission published the report entitled Novel Materials in the Environment: The Case of Nanotechnology. In its 147 page report, the RCEP urged the testing and regulation of nanomaterials to prevent possible public and environmental health damage. A copy of the report can be found by clicking here.

The report noted that the pace of nanomaterial development and marketing “is beyond the capacity of existing testing and regulatory arrangements to control the potential environmental impacts adequately.” The report noted that numerous chemicals and materials appeared to be benign when they were first introduced, such as asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, and tetra-ethyl lead.

The report recommended three main priorities, namely:

 

  • Functionality: the need to focus on the properties and functionalities of specific nanomaterials as the key driver rather than treat all materials in the size range as one single class.
  • Information: the need to establish directed research program on the properties and functionalities of materials in order to inform risk assessment and risk management strategies.
  • Adaptive management: the need to recognize the degree of unknown and uncertainty and the time it will take to address these (insofar as they can be addressed). The need to also develop flexible and resilient forms of adaptive management to handle such difficult situations and emergent technologies.