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Teaming up to police nano-threats

Microscope in Indian nanotechnology lab

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: When I say small, I mean, really, really small... Nanotechnology — a lot of people think it's the future, that it could transform everything from health care to cleaning up the environment.

But so far, no one agrees on how to regulate this new field. Today, Dupont and Environmental Defense team up to try and solve that problem. Amy Scott has this report for us.

Amy Scott: Chemical giant Dupont and nonprofit Environmental Defense are releasing what they call a "Nano Risk Framework." The guidelines include six steps companies should take before bringing a new nano-product to market.

Nano-materials are so small that environmental and health advocates worry about their potential affect on the human body. To give you an idea of the scale, the width of a piece of hair is 80,000 nanometers.

Scott Walsh is with Environmental Defense's corporate partnerships group says the federal government has been slow to regulate the new technology.

Scott Walsh: There are a lot of instances where the current regulations designed to protect the public and workers in terms of chemicals aren't quite applicable to nano-materials.

Groups like the United Steelworkers and the Natural Resources Defense Council are suspicious of voluntary policies designed by industry and its allies. The framework's authors say it's not meant to replace regulation, but to serve as an interim step while regulation catches up.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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