International civil society coalition rejects proposed voluntary nano risk management

An international coalition of 21 environment, public interest and labour organisations has released an open letter rejecting proposals to use voluntary measures to manage the risks associated with nanotechnology.

Media Release

International civil society coalition rejects proposed voluntary nano risk management

13 April 2007

Overnight, an international coalition of 21 environment, public interest and labour organisations has released an open letter rejecting proposals to use voluntary measures to manage the risks associated with nanotechnology.

The letter rejects explicitly the voluntary nanotechnology risk management framework proposed by DuPont and non-government organisation Environmental Defense.

Nanotechnology, the science of the small, involves the manipulation of materials at the level of atoms and molecules. Manufactured nanoparticles, some as small as human DNA, are now found in hundreds of consumer and industrial products, including cosmetics, fabrics, paints, household
appliances and even some foods.

Preliminary scientific evidence shows that some nanomaterials are highly toxic to test animals and human cell cultures. Yet the industry remains effectively unregulated.

“Friends of the Earth Australia joins 20 other civil society organisations from across the world in rejecting proposals from DuPont and Environmental Defense for voluntary management of nanotoxicity’s risks,” said Friends of the Earth Australia nanotechnology spokesperson Georgia Miller.

“Voluntary risk assessment will leave the worst offenders unchecked and will be used to delay rigorous regulation and mandatory risk assessment. Protection of human health and the environment from nanotoxicity’s risks should not be optional.”

“To avoid a repeat of the asbestos tragedy, global insurance giant Swiss Re has called for the precautionary principle to be applied to manage nanotechnology “whatever the difficulties”. We urgently require precaution-based government regulation to protect the health of workers,
the public and the environment from nanotoxicity and to address nanotechnology’s broader social challenges”.

Open letter co-signatories are: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; Beyond Pesticides; Brazilian Research Network in Nanotechnology, Society and Environment; Center for Environmental Health; Center for Food Safety; Corporate Watch; Edmonds Institute; ETC Group; Friends of the Earth Europe; Friends of the Earth United States;
Greenpeace; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; International Center for Technology Assessment; International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sciencecorps; Silicon
Valley Toxics Coalition; Third World Network; United Steelworkers of America

The open letter is available at: http://nano.foe.org.au/node/196
The voluntary risk framework is available at: http://nanoriskframework.com

For further comment contact: Georgia Miller 0437 979 402

 

An Open Letter to the International Nanotechnology Community At Large

Civil Society-Labor Coalition Rejects Fundamentally Flawed DuPont-ED Proposed Framework

Urges All Parties To Reject The Public Relations Campaign

April 12, 2007

To All Interested Parties:

We, the undersigned, submit this open letter to the international nanotechnology community at large. We are a coalition of public interest, non-profit and labor organizations that actively work on nanotechnology issues, including workplace safety, consumer health, environmental
welfare, and broader societal impacts.

DuPont Chemical Company (DuPont) and Environmental Defense (ED) jointly have proposed a voluntary "risk assessment" framework for nanotechnology.

These groups intend to circulate their proposed framework both in the U.S. and abroad for consideration and/or adoption by various relevant oversight organizations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

We reject outright the proposed voluntary framework as fundamentally flawed. We strongly object to any process in which broad public participation in government oversight of nanotech policy is usurped by industry and its allies. We made the decision not to engage in this process out of well-grounded concerns that our participation - even our skeptical participation - would be used to legitimize the proposed framework as a starting point or ending point for discussing
nanotechnology policy, oversight and risk analysis. The history of other voluntary regulation proposals is bleak; voluntary regulations have often been used to delay or weaken rigorous regulation and should be seen as a tactic to delay needed regulation and forestall public involvement.

Nanotechnology's rapid commercialization requires focused environmental, health and safety research, meaningful and open discussion of broader societal impacts, and urgent oversight action. Unfortunately, the DuPont-ED proposal is, at best, a public relations campaign that detracts from urgent worldwide oversight priorities for nanotechnology; at worst, the initiative could result in highly reckless policy and a precedent of abdicating policy decisions to industry by those entrusted with protecting our people, communities, and land. We strongly urge all who have an interest in nanotechnology's future to reject this proposed framework. Respect for adequate worker safety, people's health, and environmental protection demands nothing less.

Respectfully submitted,

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Beyond Pesticides
Brazilian Research Network in Nanotechnology, Society and Environment
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Food Safety
Corporate Watch
Edmonds Institute
ETC Group
Friends of the Earth Australia
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth United States
Greenpeace
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
International Center for Technology Assessment
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sciencecorps
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Third World Network
United Steelworkers of America