Silicon Valley nanotech industry faces regulation demands

Nanotechnology manufacturers need stricter regulations to avoid environmental problems and diseases such as cancer, according to a report released by an environmental advocacy group.

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Nanotechnology manufacturers need stricter regulations to avoid environmental problems and diseases such as cancer, according to a report released by an environmental advocacy group.

The nanotechnology manufacturing process is largely unregulated for environmental issues, but could cause several problems, according to the report by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

The group called for regulation of nanotech manufacturing particularly in Silicon Valley, where nanotech has emerged as a major industry, with more than 110 nanotech companies and research facilities.

"Small particles are associated with well-known diseases such as asbestosis and silicosis, granulomas, and lung inflammation," the report says. "Based on this knowledge, we can expect that the inhalation of particles as small as engineered nanoparticles could be hazardous."

Members of the NanoBusiness Alliance, a nanotech trade group, have been working with environmental groups and the US. Environmental Protection Agency to address any concerns, and the group has called for more US funding for research into the health and environmental effects of nanotech, said Sean Murdock, the alliance's executive director.

The toxics coalition uses "loaded language" and "abstract fear-mongering" discussions about cancer and other diseases in an attempt to raise concerns about nanomaterials, Murdock said. "There's nothing out there that suggests [nanomaterials] are intrinsically more dangerous" than other manufacturing materials, he said.

The toxics group seems to be calling on the nanotech industry to "prove a negative," to prove that no nanomaterial will ever be dangerous, he added. He instead called for a constructive dialogue about nanotech and possible environmental impacts.

Without stronger regulation, California and other areas with nanotech manufacturing could face toxic cleanup problems, similar to problems with toxic spills reported in Santa Clara County, California, by IBM and Fairchild Camera in 1981, the group said.