Rachel's Democracy & Health News #847
"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"
Thursday, March 23, 2006................Printer-friendly version
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Featured stories in this issue... Ten Tenets: The Law of the Commons of the Natural World What is government for? It is to protect the commons, all the things we own together and none of us owns individually, such as air, water, wildlife, the human gene pool, the accumulated human knowledge that we each inherit at birth, and more. Can protecting the commons be expressed in a simple set of guidelines? Here's a start... Close-knit Neighborhood Makes a Difference in Childhood Obesity With a problem like obesity, we are taught to focus on individual behaviors and "lifestyle choices." But our personal behavior occurs within a social context and often the social context is more important than individual choice in determining health. This is what people mean when they talk about the "social determinants of health." Toxic Waste Has a Second Life When Fumes Sneak into Homes For more than 20 years government scientists have been "cleaning up" toxic wastes, such as tetrachloroethylene (dry cleaning fluid). Now it turns out that the soil doesn't really get clean. Toxic fumes linger in the tiny air spaces between particles of soil, then migrate into people's homes and workplaces -- long after the "cleanup" has been complete and the neighborhood has been declared "safe." It's called vapor intrusion. Nuclear Reactors Found to Be Leaking Radioactive Water Aided by massive federal subsidies, the nuclear power industry is hoping to be born again. However the public's acceptance of new reactors depends in part on the performance of the old ones, and lately several of those have been discovered to be leaking radioactive water into the ground. To make things worse, the power companies have been fudging a few of the facts. Tiny Particles Promise Much, but Could Pose Big Risk. During the past 40 years, we have learned an important lesson from the chemical, nuclear, and genetic-engineering industries: all governments are now too puny to regulate the behavior of giant corporations that offer us new technologies whenever it suits their business plans. Now they are giving us nanotech. Here we go again. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #847, Mar. 23, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] TEN TENETS: THE LAW OF THE COMMONS OF THE NATURAL WORLD By Carolyn Raffensperger** The commons includes all the things we own together and none of us owns individually -- the air and waters of the Earth, wildlife, the human gene pool, the accumulated human knowledge that we all inherit at birth, and so on. The commons form the biological platform upon which the entire human enterprise -- and, indeed, all life -- depend. At present, American law tends to emphasize and give privilege to corporate rights and private property to the exclusion of community, other creatures, health, and future generations. However, hidden like treasure in the depths of our legal system is the foundation of a law of the commons. Some legal precepts derived from ancient practices of people sharing water, land and wildlife still reverberate throughout American law. One of the oldest ideas, the public trust doctrine, predates the Magna Carta but it is still part of the common law in most of the 50 U.S. states. The public trust doctrine stands for the principle that a government body holds some resource like tidal waters or shores in trust for the people. Versions of this concept have appeared in state constitutions and been adjudicated in state and federal courts. Other ideas have emerged in response to changing technology and the increasing scarcity of various resources. Beginning in the 1970's a spate of states amended their constitutions to grant new rights and assign new duties reflecting the increasing burden of pollution and damage to the commons. Florida crafted a polluter pays provision to force agriculture to clean up Lake Okeechobee, to protect the Everglades. Similarly, the Law of the Sea convention of 1982, an international treaty, asserted the right of all humankind to access the deep seas because modern fishing and mining technology had increased the likelihood of a single nation plundering the oceans. One of the most interesting ideas to take hold in the 1970's was the brainchild of an Alaska governor, Jay Hammond. He helped create the Alaska Permanent Fund to reap the benefits for all Alaskans of oil drilling on state lands. Some money from the oil profits goes into the state coffers to pay for public infrastructure and a portion of the fund is paid out to each Alaskan as a dividend. I have taken these (and other ideas) and distilled 10 tenets of commons law on which we might build a more satisfying, coherent law and policy so that we can pass this beautiful world on to future generations. Ten Tenets: the Law of the Commons of the Natural World 1) The commons shall be passed on to future generations unimpaired. See, for example, the State of Montana Constitution, Article ix, environment and natural resources. And the National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C. 1. 2) All commoners have equal access to the commons and use by commoners will be allocated without discrimination. Example: The Alaska Permanent Fund. 3) Government's key responsibility is to serve as a trustee of the commons. The trust beneficiary is present and future generations. The trustee has a responsibility to protect the trust property from harm, including harm perpetrated by trust beneficiaries. Example: Lake Michigan Federation v. Army Corps of Engineers, 742 F. 2d 441 (N.D. Ill. 1990). Source: Public trust doctrine. 4) The commons do not belong to the state but belong to commoners, the public. Example: The Public Trust Doctrine. 5) Some commons are the common heritage of all humans and other living beings. Common heritage establishes the right of commoners to those places and goods in perpetuity. This right may not be alienated, denied, repudiated or given away. The Common Heritage law is a limit on one government's sovereignty to claim economic jurisdiction and to exclude some commoners from their share. Example: the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, articles 136 and 137. 6) The precautionary principle is the most useful tool for protecting the commons for this and future generations. Example: The San Francisco precautionary principle ordinance. 7) Eminent domain is the legal process for moving private property into the commons and shall be used exclusively for that purpose. Source: Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 8) Infrastructure necessary for humans and other beings to be fully biological and social creatures will reside within the domain of the commons. The positive benefits (externalities) of the commons shall accrue to all commoners. Example: Alaska Permanent Fund. 9) The commons are the foundation of the economy. Therefore the market, commerce and private property shall not externalize damage or costs onto the commons. Example: Florida Polluter Pays Constitutional Provision. 10) Damage to or loss of the commons shall be compensated to all commoners. Example: Alaska Permanent Fund. It is no secret that we face increasing environmental and social degradation. All indicators suggest that prisons are expanding (even as crime rates drop), poor children suffer disproportionately from toxic chemicals, global warming and pollution threaten to make the planet uninhabitable, and biodiversity is being shredded and homogenized. The old rules enabled the rich to get richer at the expense of the commons -- ostensibly so benefits could "trickle down" to everyone else. There may have been a time when those rules made some kind of sense, but now the world is a different place. It is time to change course. We can create a political and legal agenda based on equitable sharing -- sharing the bounty of the Earth in such a way that we increase the commonwealth and common health for this generation and those to come, give substance to the universal declaration of human rights, and fulfill the promise of America. These ten tenets are a place to start. ** Carolyn Raffensperger is the executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network in Ames, Iowa. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Reuters Health, Feb. 23, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] NEIGHBORHOOD MAY HELP PREVENT CHILDHOOD OBESITY By Charnicia Huggins NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- The neighborhood an adolescent lives in may influence his or her development of obesity, new study findings suggest. Specifically, investigators found that adolescents from close-knit neighborhoods were less likely to be obese. Close-knit neighborhoods exhibited strong collective efficacy -- neighbors get along and are willing to help each other, and many adults are role models for adolescents. "There is an obesity epidemic in this country and treatment has focused on diet and exercise with relatively little success," study author Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the Santa Monica, California-based RAND Corporation, said in a company statement. The current findings imply that it may be necessary to "look at the neighborhood environment as potentially very important in controlling the obesity epidemic," she told Reuters Health. "The social environment that a child lives in is very strongly associated with how active they are, what they eat and how much they eat," she said.] Previous studies show that a neighborhood's level of collective efficacy is predictive of crime, premature death, death from cardiovascular disease and other health outcomes. In a survey of 684 households in 65 Los Angeles County neighborhoods, Cohen and her team investigated whether collective efficacy may also indirectly affect factors related to obesity. The study included 807 adolescences and 3000 adults. Cohen's group found that adolescents who lived in neighborhoods with high levels of collective efficacy were also less likely to be overweight or at risk for overweight and had a lower body mass index -- a ratio of weight to height -- than did their peers in other neighborhoods. Adolescents in low-collective efficacy neighborhoods, on the other hand, were 64 percent more likely to be at-risk-for-overweight and 52 percent more likely to be overweight than those living in neighborhoods with an average level of collective efficacy, the researchers report in the journal Social Science & Medicine. In fact, collective efficacy was more important in predicting obesity than the ethnic or racial make-up of the neighborhood, or the income of its residents, Cohen noted. The reason for the association is unknown, but Cohen speculated that children in neighborhoods with high collective efficacy may be more likely to play outside rather than sit inside and watch television. Or, she said, "maybe (their) neighborhoods look different," with more parks and fewer fast food restaurants. Based on the findings, "we need to start looking at our environments," she said, and ask: "Are there places for kids to play? Billboard advertisements for fast foods?" Citing the potential for neighborhood groups to create a sports league or get a park for children to play in, she said, "together people can change their environment and make it healthy." SOURCE: Social Science & Medicine, February 2006. Copyright 2006 Reuters Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: New York Newsday, Feb. 5, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] TOXIC FUMES THAT WON'T FADE AWAY State agencies plan to identify sites where traces of contaminants may have migrated, posing a health hazard By Bill Bleyer [Rachel's introduction: Government scientists have recently discovered that toxic wastes site don't get as clean as everyone had thought. Chemicals remain attached to the soil and begin to move around, contaminating the air inside homes and commercial buildings. It's called vapor intrusion. For more information, check in with Lenny Siegel at the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. The only long-term solution to many of these problems is zero discharge, which means zero manufacturing of many persistant organic chemicals. This is the key to preventing toxic spills and their legacy of human suffering. Cleaning up so-called vapor-intrusion will soon be a huge industry -- meanwhile, we are 'whistling past the graveyard' denying that there's a better way to keep our clothes clean.] Until three years ago, public health officials thought that when they had cleaned up spilled toxic solvents in the ground, their work was done. But then they learned about "vapor intrusion." That is a process where the remaining traces of contaminants -- such as tetrachloroethylene -- form a gas that migrates through the soil into adjacent structures, creating a health hazard. Some of the chemicals are known carcinogens and others could create other health problems. So the state environmental conservation and health departments are finalizing a plan for dealing with the problem by the end of the year. At the same time, the agencies are prioritizing a list of 421 toxic sites -- including 89 on Long Island and 11 in New York City -- where cleanups were completed or planned before 2003 and now need to be re- examined for toxic fumes. In a few cases, such as a former IBM site in upstate Endicott, a vapor cleanup is already under way at 441 properties above a 300-acre plume. And some other sites, including a dry cleaning company in Port Washington and an industrial site in New Cassel, are being studied to develop vapor cleanup plans. "The state is being more aggressive than other states, and that's a good thing," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, an environmental database firm in Ithaca, said there are sites on Long Island where solvent vapors have intruded from soil into libraries, a tennis academy and a temple. "The problem has been that the state never had an overall program to try to look back at these sites that they once determined had been cleaned up," he said. "Now, for the first time, it appears that we have a comprehensive review of all of the sites that in many cases have been known about for decades to find out whether or not people are actually breathing these solvent fumes in their homes and other buildings. "The question is, how are they going to clean up these problems if they find widespread vapor intrusion?" Maureen Wren, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said her agency and the health department are reviewing the proposed policy as well as recommendations in a report issued last month by the Assembly environmental conservation committee. "We'll be addressing the sites with the greatest potential first," said Wren, who noted that toxic sites identified since 2003 have been examined for vapor intrusion. Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli (D-Great Neck), chairman of the environmental conservation committee, said the panel recommended "that if you detect the chemical, you should go right to mitigation because the cost of mitigation and monitoring are pretty similar." The committee also stressed that the state agencies need to make sure residents and businesses have full and timely information about contaminants. Paul Granger, superintendent of the Plainview Water District, which has 14 sites on the state list, said he welcomed any action that protects the community. "We were aware of issues surrounding the water quality for quite some time and took the initiative to correct it immediately. When we noticed the water quality was diminishing, we put treatment systems in place. The water is absolutely safe to drink," he said. "I'm glad they are at least coming back to check." According to Carl Johnson, DEC deputy commissioner for air and waste management, the proposed policy calls for "the party responsible for contaminating the site to pay for and perform the vapor intrusion evaluation, as well as... monitoring of any mitigation system which would be required." If that's not possible, the state would step in. The mitigation methods include sealing foundation cracks and adjusting heating, ventilation or air- conditioning systems to prevent vapor infiltration. Staff writer Deborah S. Morris contributed to this story. Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: New York Times, Mar. 17, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] NUCLEAR REACTORS FOUND TO BE LEAKING RADIOACTIVE WATER By Matthew L. Wald WASHINGTON, March 16 -- With power cleaner than coal and cheaper than natural gas, the nuclear industry, 20 years past its last meltdown, thinks it is ready for its second act: its first new reactor orders since the 1970's. But there is a catch. The public's acceptance of new reactors depends in part on the performance of the old ones, and lately several of those have been discovered to be leaking radioactive water into the ground. Near Braceville, Ill., the Braidwood Generating Station, owned by the Exelon Corporation, has leaked tritium into underground water that has shown up in the well of a family nearby. The company, which has bought out one property owner and is negotiating with others, has offered to help pay for a municipal water system for houses near the plant that have private wells. In a survey of all 10 of its nuclear plants, Exelon found tritium in the ground at two others. On Tuesday, it said it had had another spill at Braidwood, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, and on Thursday, the attorney general of Illinois announced she was filing a lawsuit against the company over that leak and five earlier ones, dating to 1996. The suit demands among other things that the utility provide substitute water supplies to residents. In New York, at the Indian Point 2 reactor in Buchanan, workers digging a foundation adjacent to the plant's spent fuel pool found wet dirt, an indication that the pool was leaking. New monitoring wells are tracing the tritium's progress toward the Hudson River. Indian Point officials say the quantities are tiny, compared with the amount of tritium that Indian Point is legally allowed to release into the river. Officials said they planned to find out how much was leaking and declare the leak a "monitored release pathway." Nils J. Diaz, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said he would withhold judgment on the proposal until after it reached his agency, but he added, "They're going to have to fix it." This month, workers at the Palo Verde plant in New Mexico found tritium in an underground pipe vault. The Union of Concerned Scientists, which is critical of nuclear power safety arrangements, said recently that in the past 10 years, tritium had leaked from at least seven reactors. It called for a systematic program to ensure there were no more leaks. Tami Branum, who lives close to the Braidwood reactor and owns property in the nearby village of Godley, said in a telephone interview, "It's just absolutely horrible, what we're trying to deal with here." Ms. Branum and her children, 17-year-old twin girls and a 7-year-old boy, drink only bottled water, she said, but use municipal water for everything else. "We're bathing in it, there's no way around it," she said. Ms. Branum said that her property in Godley was worth about $50,000 and that she wanted to sell it, but that no property was changing hands now because of the spill. A spokesman for Exelon, Craig Nesbit, said that neither Godley's water nor Braidwood's water system was threatened, but that the company had lost credibility when it did not publicly disclose a huge fuel oil spill and spills of tritium from 1996 to 2003. No well outside company property shows levels that exceed drinking water standards, he said. Mr. Diaz of the regulatory agency, speaking to a gathering of about 1,800 industry executives and government regulators last week, said utilities were planning to apply for 11 reactor projects, with a total of 17 reactors. The Palo Verde reactor was the last one that was ordered, in October 1973, and actually built. As the agency prepares to review license applications for the first time in decades, it is focusing on "materials degradation," a catch- all term for cracks, rust and other ills to which nuclear plants are susceptible. The old metal has to hold together, or be patched or replaced as required, for the industry to have a chance at building new plants, experts say. Tritium, a form of hydrogen with two additional neutrons in its nucleus, is especially vexing. The atom is unstable and returns to stability by emitting a radioactive particle. Because the hydrogen is incorporated into a water molecule, it is almost impossible to filter out. The biological effect of the radiation is limited because, just like ordinary water, water that incorporates tritium does not stay in the body long. But it is detectable in tiny quantities, and always makes its source look bad. The Energy Department closed a research reactor in New York at its Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, largely because of a tritium leak. And it can catch up to a plant after death; demolition crews at the Connecticut Yankee reactor in Haddam Neck, Conn., are disposing of extra dirt that has been contaminated with tritium and other materials, as they tear the plant down. After years of flat employment levels, the industry is preparing to hire hundreds of new engineers. Luis A. Reyes, the executive director for operations at the regulatory commission, told the industry gathering last week, "We'll take your resume in hard copy, online, whatever you can do," eliciting laughter from an audience heavy with executives of reactor operators and companies that want to build new ones. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Natural Resources Defense Council, Mar. 20, 2006 [Printer-friendly version] TINY PARTICLES PROMISE MUCH, BUT COULD POSE BIG RISK. You may have seen the TV commercials, or you may have read about it in the clothing catalogs that clog your mailbox. You now can buy wrinkle- free clothes. How do they make it wrinkle-free? With nanotechnology: the science of manipulating tiny particles that are one-billionth of a meter in size -- larger than an atom but smaller than a cell -- which in this case are impregnated into cotton. But nanotechnology isn't only for pants. It already has a number of other commercial applications, from high-capacity computer drives to food packaging, shampoos, sunscreens and cosmetics. And it is being hailed as the next industrial revolution, likely to change everything from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear to the medical treatments doctors can offer. Scientists expect these invisible nanoparticles, or ultra-fine particles, will enable them to create new cancer therapies, pollution-eating compounds, more durable consumer products, advanced detectors for biohazards like anthrax, and higher- efficiency fuel cells, among other things. While nanotechnologies promises much, very little is known about the risks it may pose to people, wildlife or the environment. The limited research on nanotechnologies indicates that there is a very real potential for harm. Likewise, there are no adequate federal or state regulations governing its use, so there is nothing holding back the nanotechnology industry from continuing to market products containing nanoparticles, which are likely to wind up in our bodies or the environment. Nanomaterials Are Not Benign Nano, which comes from the Greek word for "dwarf," is used by scientists to indicate 10-9, or one billionth. Nanometer-sized materials are one-billionth of a meter in size; larger than atoms, but much smaller than a cell. As a comparison, there are as many nanometers in an inch as there are inches in 400 miles -- 25,344,000. Molecules in the range of 1 to 100 nm are considered nano-sized. The width of a human hair, for example, is 80,000 nm. Nanotechnology describes the engineering of nano-size materials from such elements as carbon, iron or titanium. While nano-sized materials are not new, scientists' ability to construct geometric arrays of elements on a nano-scale has become increasingly sophisticated over the last decade. Nanomaterials come in a number of shapes and sizes, such as buckeyballs (60 carbon atoms in the shape of a soccer ball named after R. Buckminster Fuller, the designer of the geodesic dome), fibers and dots, and have different properties than their normal-size counterparts. At nano-size, opaque materials may become transparent, chemically stable materials may become reactive, and electrical insulators may become conductors, or vice-versa. Laboratory animal studies suggest that nanoparticles can cause inflammation, damage brain cells, and cause pre-cancer lesions. Early research also has found that nanoparticles easily move from one area of the body to another. A nanoparticle may easily penetrate a cell, while the normal-size form of the same chemical may not be able to enter. There are three main ways people can be exposed to nanomaterials: inhaling them, ingesting them, or absorbing them through their skin. A June 2005 study by researchers at Rice University found that carbon buckeyballs will clump together and become soluble in water. This is disconcerting given that buckeyballs can damage the brain cells of fish, according to a 2004 Duke University study. Meanwhile, scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology found that high levels of nano-alumina oxide stunts the growth of five plant species, which include corn, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots and soybeans. Nano-alumina already is used to make scratch-resistant coatings and sunscreen lotions, and to neutralize water pollution, where it could be released directly into waterways. Industry response to these early warnings has been mixed. Some large manufacturers and many small start-ups welcome safety testing and adequate regulation if they are not overly costly or burdensome. But other manufacturers are either avoiding conducting safety tests or are keeping their test data confidential. At the same time they are reassuring the public that the technology is safe. The insurance industry, meanwhile, is worried about nanotechnology's potential health and environmental hazards; it does not want to face another asbestos liability debacle. Reinsurance companies such as Swiss Re, and financial investment advisers such as Innovest and Allianz, have called for strict safety testing and regulatory oversight. Federal Safeguards and Research Inadequate Federal laws have not kept up with advances in nanotechnology, and the regulations that may apply to the field cross numerous agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Department of Agriculture. The Toxic Substances Control Act is the most obvious law for regulating nanomaterials. But the law does not require manufacturers to provide safety data before registering a chemical, instead placing the burden on the government to demonstrate that a substance is harmful. If the government does not follow up on potential risks with a new product application within several months, the company can proceed to sell its product. Other laws on the books also are inadequate. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act includes only feeble safeguards for cosmetics, which already promise to be a major use of nanomaterials. Likewise, the poorly enforced Occupational Safety and Health Act fails to address nano-specific worker protections. In response to the dearth of sufficient regulations, the EPA is developing a voluntary program with the input of industry, academic health and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The agency will ask manufacturers to voluntarily submit basic information on their nanomaterials and their risk management practices. The EPA also plans to establish another voluntary "in depth" program to gather more specific information to help the agency conduct risk assessments of nanomaterials and develop regulations. Manufacturers have at least one incentive to participate: they would be able to advertise that they are acting responsibly. The EPA's volunteer approach may help to fill an immediate need for data, but it is severely limited. Companies do not have to participate, and those producing the riskiest products are unlikely to do so. In addition, the program is designed to do little more than gather data, and does not define what protective actions the government should require, if any, in response. The federal government established the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 1998 to coordinate multi-agency research and development on nanotechnologies. Federal funding for nanotechnology research and development through the NNI has tripled since it was established in 2001, from $464 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion in 2007. The budget for fiscal year 2005 earmarked $38.3 million -- less than 4 percent of federal nanotech research dollars -- for investigating the potential risks nanotechnology poses to health and the environment. That amount should be at least tripled if safety testing is going to keep up with research and development. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that federal priorities will change soon, given that in the FY2007 nanotechnology research budget the president has proposed $603 million for the Defense Department and Energy Department, and only $182 million for the agencies charged with protecting health -- the EPA and Health and Human Services. Some federal agencies are addressing the potential downside of nanotechnology. Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program, for example, is researching potential health risks. The EPA awarded $4 million in research grants last year to study the potential impact of nanotechnologies on human health and the environment. And the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is developing a "best practices" document on handling nanoparticles in the workplace to reduce risks. But much more needs to be done to better understand potential risks. What Needs to Be Done In December 2005, the EPA released a nanotechnology "white paper" that provides an overview of the field, its benefits and applications, a toxicological review of available data, and research needs. Most important, it recommends that the EPA: ** support approaches to promote pollution prevention, sustainable resource use, and good product stewardship in the production and use of nanomaterials; ** support and undertake research on human health and ecological impacts of nanomaterials; ** conduct case studies on the risks and information gaps of specific nanomaterials; ** expand its collaborations on the potential human and environmental health implications; ** convene a standing cross-agency group to share risk information and regulatory activities; and ** expand its activities to train agency scientists and managers about the potential environmental applications and implications of nanotechnologies. While the white paper's recommendations are a good start, they do not go far enough to prevent harmful exposures. To ensure the safety of nanoscale materials, NRDC recommends that the federal government also: ** take immediate action to prevent uses of nanomaterials that may result in human exposures or environmental releases, unless reasonable assurances of safety are demonstrated beforehand; ** require labels for products that contain nanomaterials, and for products made with processes that use nanomaterials; ** publicly disclose information on potential risks; ** include toxicity information on nanomaterials for worker protection on material safety data sheets; ** increase safety testing conducted by independent or government laboratories subject to "sunshine laws" that allow public access; ** conduct comprehensive assessment of the environmental and human health concerns that may arise across the life-cycle -- including production, use, and disposal -- of nanotech products. In addition to these policy recommendations, NRDC has asked the EPA to expand its outreach to include the advice of public health experts, worker protection advocates, community groups, state regulatory agencies, ethicists, and public interest groups. NRDC also has encouraged the EPA to reach out to small businesses, companies that use nanomaterials in their products, and retailers selling products that contain nanomaterials or use nanomaterials in their production. Each of these stakeholders represents a unique and important perspective in determining appropriate ways to go forward with nanotechnology development safely and sustainably. The genie is out of the bottle, but we still can demand assurance that our families, wildlife and the environment are safe before more nanomaterials are used in consumer products or released into the environment. We are at the same crossroads we were a few years ago with genetically modified food, and that showed that empty assurances of safety will not win over a wary public. The federal government, state regulators, and industry have an opportunity to develop this exciting new technology openly, with public participation and government oversight. Otherwise we will be allowing the nanotechnology industry to conduct an uncontrolled experiment on the American people. More Information on the Web For ongoing technical information about the research and development of nanomaterials, see the Small Times site. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies provides information about responsible approaches to nanotechnology development, including a searchable nanotechnology consumer products inventory. The 2005 EPA Draft Nanotechnology White Paper provides a summary of the hazards of nanotechnologies, as well as research recommendations. Innovest, an investment advisor group, published a report on risks in 2005 titled "Nanotechnology: non-traditional methods for valuation of nanotechnology producers: Introducing the Innovest Nanotechnology Index for the Value Investor." It is available at www.innovestgroup.com (see "specialized reports" section). The Swiss Re insurance site features a 2004 report, "Nanotechnology -- small matter, many unknowns" about the risks of nanotechnologies. A 2004 report by the Royal Society of Engineers in the United Kingdom, "Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties," provides an overview of scientific concerns and makes recommendations for strict regulation. last revised 3.20.05 Copyright Natural Resources Defense Council Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all. The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few. In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what might be done about it?" As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots, please Email them to us at email@example.com. Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject. 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