Andrew Maynard of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson Institute testified on October 31st before the House Science Committee. PEN’s press release is here and the full text of Maynard’s remarks are here. In his testimony, Maynard advocated six steps to improve nanotechnology safety and criticized what he believed was a lack of coordination and focus on environmental, health & safety issues.
Among the items Maynard criticized is the practice of carbon nanotube manufacturers to submit MSDS sheets for SWNTs that effectively mirror those for regular graphite. This is a practice I also identified as problematic in my remarks before the Nano App Summit in Cleveland on October 22nd. However, in the absence of clearer safety data, I don’t know that it’s unreasonable to provide warnings to workers based on the source material and then to additionally warn workers of "potential" inhalation and other risks.
In any event, among the six steps Maynard advocates are the following:
Create a new federal advisory committee to allow transparent input and review from industry, scientists, labor groups, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders; [and]
Appoint a top-level government leader responsible for the action needed to address the environmental, health and safety challenges of nanotechnology.
In his comments, Maynard criticizes what he terms as disconnects between administrative agencies and contends that NNI is not sufficiently well-funded and is not focused clearly enough on environmental, health and safety issues. One example of the "disconnect" Maynard dislikes is the fact that NIOSH filed a public comment on EPA’s TSCA paper from this past summer in which NIOSH disagreed with EPA’s proposed regulatory framework for nanomaterials under TSCA. Instead, Maynard believed that NIOSH should have been communicating with EPA through "back channels." While I recognize Maynard’s general point that the federal government needs to coordinate as well as it can, I actually don’t mind the transparency that comes with agencies communicating through "front channels" rather than "back channels." Say what you will, but the public disagreement between NIOSH and EPA on the TSCA regulatory issue certainly has drawn attention to the issue and enriched the public debate in a way that "back channel" lobbying would not have.