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FDA Asked to Regulate Nanotechnology 248

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fda-begins-regulating-ipods dept.
WillAffleckUW writes "According to the Washington Post, a coalition of environmental and consumer groups has asked the FDA to look at regulating nanotechnology. They point out that there are more than 100 nanotechnology products and that nanoparticles can penetrate cells and tissues, migrate through the body and brain and cause biochemical damage."
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FDA Asked to Regulate Nanotechnology

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  • by Orrin Bloquy (898571) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:33PM (#15354238) Journal
    "Concerned buckyball-momites asked, 'won't someone think of the chelates?'"
  • Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duerra (684053) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:33PM (#15354240) Homepage
    How about the FDA regulate... food and drugs? This is kind of broad, don'tcha think? I mean, jeez, "nanotechnology" encompases a whole load of things that have absolutely nothing to do with the FDA, including the equipment that I'm writing this message with, and the equipment you're reading this with. Hell, why not ask the FCC to regulate nanotechnology. It would make just as much sense. Or the Department of Homeland Security. Or any other government bureaucracy with interests to protect.

    Or better yet, how about the government just stay the eff out of things for a change and let's see what happens, and deal with issues as they arise? That would be a novel idea, wouldn't it? The last thing I need is the FDA telling me I can't buy the latest and greatest geeky ballpoint pen because the ink might be poisonous - or, god forbid, get me high.

    Of course, maybe TFA just failed to mention that they only wanted things that actually deal with F&D regulated. I guess neither would surprise me at this point.
    • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quaoar (614366) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:36PM (#15354271)
      Well, to be fair, what department WOULD regulate nanotechnology? I mean it's quite new, and has applications in MANY areas, including foods and drugs. Someone's going to regulate it eventually. I mean, congress COULD directly pass laws to regulate it, but that seems far less friendly to industry.
      • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by duerra (684053) * on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:42PM (#15354302) Homepage
        Well, to be fair, what department WOULD regulate nanotechnology? I mean it's quite new, and has applications in MANY areas, including foods and drugs. Someone's going to regulate it eventually. I mean, congress COULD directly pass laws to regulate it, but that seems far less friendly to industry.


        Once you realize that "nanotechnology" plays a part in almost every part of your daily life, from the clothes you wear, to the wheels your car rides on, to the TV you watch, to, well... you get my drift.

        Nanotechnology isn't some tangible thing to be regulated. It's a word that encompases a part of almost everything in our lives, because it is, simply put, technology on a small scale. If this article is accurate, this petition was submitted out of pure ignorance.
        • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:05PM (#15354486)
          True, however, the reach of the FDA *is* surprisingly broad. For example contact lenses and tampons are regulated by the FDA ... and they are neither food nor drugs.

          Similiarly the FDA's scope reaches into approving materials (e.g. plastics) and so forth that might be used in the packaging of food or drugs, or even used in the presence of food or drugs, or even used in a facility where packaging of food or drugs is taking place.

          e.g. the FDA would be interested in the presence of asbestos in a facility that makes the plastic used in the packaging of tampons. (which again are neither food nor drugs).

          Anyhow, with that kind of scope its reasonable to be watching for 'harmful' elements in clothing and wheels -- as these shirts and wheels might be on staff or forklifts in facilities that manufacture or transport food and drugs...

          Once you realize that "nanotechnology" plays a part in almost every part of your daily life, from the clothes you wear, to the wheels your car rides on, to the TV you watch, to, well... you get my drift.

          If by getting your drift you mean that evidently the FDA also plays a part in almost every part of your daily life. ;)

          • the reach of the FDA *is* surprisingly broad. For example contact lenses and tampons are regulated by the FDA ... and they are neither food nor drugs.

            Both of which (tampons and contact lenses) can mess you up if done irresponsibly.

            It's a good thing to get some basic protections against ignorant use of this before we end up with another form of pollution (BT corn? Resistant bacteria? Resistant wind-pollinated weeds?)

            A recent test showed that one type of nano particle killed fish when some was put in the wa
            • t's a good thing to get some basic protections against ignorant use of this before we end up with another form of pollution (BT corn? Resistant bacteria? Resistant wind-pollinated weeds?)

              A recent test showed that one type of nano particle killed fish when some was put in the water (and yes I realize you can kill them with enough salt or dirt or any particle), the question remains, What toxins do we have to tolerate from businesses trying to make a buck before laying down some basic responsibilities? How muc

          • True, however, the reach of the FDA *is* surprisingly broad. For example contact lenses and tampons are regulated by the FDA ... and they are neither food nor drugs.

            WHAT??!!! Cough splutter cough ...

        • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717)
          Nanotechnology isn't some tangible thing to be regulated. It's a word that encompases a part of almost everything in our lives, because it is, simply put, technology on a small scale.

          Not really. What gives nanotech its potential is not its scale persay, but the fact that at that scale, quantum effects come into play. This gives nanoscale materials very different properties than they would have at the large scale. Nanotech materials, as a generalization, tend to be very reactive (even gold nanoparticles)
      • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kfg (145172) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:54PM (#15354406)
        Well, to be fair, what department WOULD regulate nanotechnology?

        What department regulates gelatin intended for human consumption?

        That's right, the FDA.

        What department regulates glue, leather and violin strings?

        Not the FDA.

        How about we let the relevant agencies regulate within the sphere of their mandate and expertise? And God forbid that should leave certain applications beyond the realm of the government. I really don't feel like having to bring my fiddles to some sort of inspector other than my customers, nor do I see any value in it.

        KFG
        • by Ruff_ilb (769396)
          Lets just create the Department of Nanotechnology.

          Problem solved!
        • "Regulate nanotechnology" is as meaningless as "regulate technology". Intel and AMD use nanotechnology regularly, but not in the sense that peope care about here.

          As far a regulating nanomaterials used in consumer products, the FDA is a perfectly sensible agency for this. If some window cleaner contains nanamaterials that might cause silicosis if inhaled, for example, oversight of the clinical trials to determine that product's safety are the FDAs normal business.

          It's no more odd than the FDA regulating la
      • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:37PM (#15354688)
        Well, to be fair, what department WOULD regulate nanotechnology?


        The Constitution of the USA is very specific on exactly what the federal government can and cannot do. Among "internal" issues, i.e. everything that does not concern the relations of the USA with other countries, there is very little that the federal government has the authority to do, although no one would guess it from the way Washington acts.


        Unless someone finds a way to put nanotechnology in what has been used as the mother of all catchalls in Article I, section 8, "To regulate Commerce ... among the several states", I don't see much that the Congress of the USA can legislate about in nanotechnology.

        • The Constitution of the USA is very specific on exactly what the federal government can and cannot do.

          What does the part about nanotechnology say?
        • Which is why the FDA is in chage of regulating this, imagine company X located in texas makes a cleaner with 'superfine nanotechnology' scrubbing agents, and some child in tennesee drinks said superfine cleaning agent, gets sick and is hospitalized... because we don't want the tenessee militia mobilizing on texas, it's being handled by the FDA. but technically you are correct, the federal government can make a big fuss, but if californians wanted to make the use of nanotechology legal in the state of cali
      • Well, to be fair, what department WOULD regulate nanotechnology?

        I was hoping the "Department of Federal Whacky Unrealistic Luddite Fears of Science Fiction Movies" would get involved.

        Seriously, nanotechnology doesn't need to be regulated because it really isn't a technology per say (other than marketing hype of technology that uses measurements in nano meters) and poses as much of a threat to civilization as say... Pollen.

        I'm sure if you ate Nano Carbon tubes it won't be healthy for you, but so is eating le
        • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @07:22PM (#15354920) Journal
          As far as the Gray Goo threat goes, I don't think it's the immediate concern here.

          Quite frankly, given the irresponsible extreme anti-regulation attitudes expressed by many here, I think I am in favor of a specific regulatory agency, such as we have for nuclear power.

          There are too many technologists (or people who think they are) that are all too willing to play fast and loose, without an understanding, let alone a regard, for the consequences of their actions. Too many companies that would put short term profit ahead of the general public's welfare.

          Regulation of nanotechnology is a no-brainer.
      • would make more sense for nanotech that is not designed to be consumed, while FDA would be the logical choice for medical nanotech.

    • Products FDA Regulates

      Food
      Foodborne Illness, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements...

      Drugs
      Prescription, Over-the-Counter, Generic...

      Medical Devices
      Pacemakers, Contact Lenses, Hearing Aids...

      Biologics
      Vaccines, Blood Products...

      Animal Feed and Drugs
      Livestock, Pets...

      Cosmetics
      Safety, Labeling...

      Radiation-Emitting Products
      Cell Phones, Lasers, Microwaves...

      Combination Products
    • Many of these nanotechnologies ARE used in food and drugs. One example is nano-sized titanium particles that are used in over-the-counter sunscreens.
    • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:3, Informative)

      by mugnyte (203225)
      Keep in mind there is a current trend for cosmetics and supplements to use the word "nano" in front of all thing marketing-speak. The concern from this trend is from having the particles penetrate the subdermal layer and travel throughout the body.

      see concern story here [npr.org] and a rebuttal here [softmachines.org] for examples
    • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbrower (114953) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:15PM (#15354561) Journal
      RTFA. The suit "petitioned the Food and Drug Administration yesterday to beef up its regulation of nanoparticle-containing sunscreens and cosmetics and recall some products." These are things over which it already has jurisdiction.

      This is NOT a request for blanket regulation, as some of the more knee-jerk replies suggest.

      -dB

    • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by syphax (189065) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:16PM (#15354564) Journal
      From TFA:

      Among the FDA-regulated products being sold are sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide nanoparticles (which offer strong ultraviolet protection while remaining colorless) and cosmetics with nanoscale liposomes -- tiny chemical bubbles that deliver moisteners and other ingredients to the skin.

      They are asking for better regulation of currently-regulated products. Seems pretty in-scope to me.

      Or better yet, how about the government just stay the eff out of things for a change and let's see what happens, and deal with issues as they arise? That would be a novel idea, wouldn't it?

      Yeah, that [wikipedia.org] approach [wikipedia.org] carries [wikipedia.org] no [wikipedia.org] risks [wikipedia.org].

      Is it possible that it makes more sense to conduct controlled trials with a limited number of subjects, rather than poorly controlled trials with possibly millions of subjects? That the risk of harm of the latter case might be significant?

      I submit that regulation of something with plausible but poorly understood impacts on human and/or enviromental health may not be a terrible idea. The problem, of course, is that it's really hard to write regulations that achieve their ends without being painfully burdensome for the regulated. This is partly due to having to loophole-proof the regs, as history has shown that regulated parties are really good at meeting the letter of the law while butchering the spirit. Also, not all regulations have sucked: from what I can tell, SO2 trading, which has a specific target but allows flexible, market-based solutions, basically works.
      • Please don't get me wrong. I don't feel that there shouldn't be any regulations. I don't even feel that the FDA shouldn't oversee nanotechnologies that affect the products that enter our bodies. My point was that you can't blanket the entire tech and engineering sectors under the FDA as the article suggests. Now, it does seem silly to even assume that this is even the intentions, but it's all about common sense, and our government seems to have a distinct lack of it these days.
      • Is it possible that it makes more sense to conduct controlled trials with a limited number of subjects, rather than poorly controlled trials with possibly millions of subjects?

        No, it's not possible at all. Imagine a highly toxic substance, for instance Sodium Cyanide. NaCN is so toxic that, literally, a sniff can kill you. Yet it's widely used worldwide, one of the most used chemical compounds in metal plating. But very few people die from cyanide poisoning, exactly because it's so toxic that everyone know

        • Imagine a highly toxic substance, for instance Sodium Cyanide. NaCN is so toxic that, literally, a sniff can kill you. Yet it's widely used worldwide, one of the most used chemical compounds in metal plating. But very few people die from cyanide poisoning, exactly because it's so toxic that everyone knows it and acts accordingly. It's very easy to characterize NaCN as a toxic substance, mix the slightest amount of it in a rabbit's food and the rabbit will die in seconds.

          What I find amusing about sodium (or


        • I agree with your basic point that you can't easily detect the sort of toxicity that leads to death/illness with low frequency, O(1 in 1M) or so. And the really bad stuff is self-evident, as you note. But there's the class of substances that occupy the middle ground- not obviously fatal, but pretty frickin' bad. It sure would be nice to catch these in the lab.

          Lead is an interesting example.

          The aqueduct that supplied water to the French city of Nimes had parts made of lead. It was operated continuously fo
        • NaCN is so toxic that, literally, a sniff can kill you.

          Especially since NaCN is a nonvolatile solid that boils at 1500 degrees. A sniff of anything at that temperature will kill you. Hit it with a little acid, then you've got HCN, which is gaseous. What I've always wondered is how they determine the detectable odor threshold for toxic gases (1-5 ppm for HCN) without killing people.

          Industrial facilities that use cyanides on large scale take every imaginable precaution, including "dead man" drills, in whi
    • Re:Oh Gawds... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137)
      "Nanotechnology" doesn't just mean "tiny things."

      It's more guided towards "tiny independent things."

      So the nanometer features of your microchips aren't strictly nanotechnology, because they aren't going anywhere without the other 50 million that are there.
      • Nanotecholgy currently means "little specs of titanium in sunscreen", and will continue to mean whatever advertisers want it to, as the word has been discovered by marketing departments.

        Nanotechnology will never mean "nano-scale robots" the was some SciFi fans want it to, as we already have words for actors and tools at that scale: cells and enzymes.
        • Cells are way out of the nano-scale. Enzymes, on the other hand, are the only true available nanomachinery at the moment. However, they have some problems. First of all, I don't see protein based nanomachinery ever working outside of a reasonably well buffered aqueous medium, which severly limits its use for several fields of engineering. Secondly - to really get to the SF-level of nanotechnology, you would sooner or later need selfreplicating nanomachines. It might be possible to engineer enzymes to do tha
    • It would be nice if the FDA actually regulated two of the most dangerous drugs, nicotine and ethanol. (No, I don't smoke, but yes, I do drink.) Those are unfortunately consigned to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, who pretty much focus on making sure the federal taxes are paid.
      • iirc alcohol was made a special case in a constitutional ammendment to end prohibtion and make sure it never returned.

        dunno about tobacco though.

    • Let's hire more government bureaucrats! The FDA does such a crap job of carrying out their current duties, it's mind-boggling that anyone would seriously consider handing them a laundry list of new things to do badly.
    • Given free hand, we might see them develop into something the FCC has become, they turned from a technology-approving to a content-approving organisation.

      So maybe it should be limited to nanotech applied in the food and drug area. They got no biz in anything else.
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:36PM (#15354269) Homepage
    This is probably going to end up as an excellent way to make sure that no one bothers to do nanotechnology research in the United States.
    • This is probably going to end up as an excellent way to make sure that no one bothers to do nanotechnology research in the United States.


      Yeah, just the same way that FDA regulation of prescription drugs means no one does pharmaceutical research in the US.
      • Well, it certainly drives way up the COST of doing pharmaceutical research in the US (and hence, ala the oil companies, the profit margin, wink wink nudge nudge) - only their customers have a steep demand curve: either pay us $500 for a month of pills or go home and suffer or die.

        Buy a hunting hearing enhancing amplifier [midsouthsh...supply.com] at the sporting goods store: $300 at most. Buy a regulated hearing aid from an audiologist: $5000.
    • This is probably going to end up as an excellent way to make sure that no one bothers to do nanotechnology research in the United States.

      As an emerging technology of which the potentially harmful effects are still unkown even to those creating products based on nantech, what do you suggest be done to protect the people? Or are you really trying to argue that nanotechnology is proven to have no ill effects? Just recently in the UK, a manufacturer was forced to recall their product that contained nanotechnolo
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:39PM (#15354283) Homepage Journal
    and ask for a trillion more a year, to regulate and enforce limits on a fast breaking technology, but only when done in the USA, meaning everyone cutting edge, or sloppy, or lazy, or with imperfect tools, starts working outside the USA, blunting the edge of this countries technological advantage a little more-- and when a self-replicating oil eating VonNeumann get's loose, anyone who might have had the skills to defeat the new micro-overloads will have never developed said skills, as they had to expend too much frustration/energy/life forces learning about red-tape processes.

    • As I understand it, the FDA regulates products sold, not research (aside from clinical trials). You can research any amazing product you want, and foreign companies can manufacture any amazing product they want. But both will run into the FDA at the point where you sell the product in the U.S. No sooner, and no later, same barrier for both. (And only if the FDA applies to that particular product category.)

      In a word, that's a bogus argument. -- Paul

  • by youngerpants (255314) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:45PM (#15354321)
    Only you can prevent Grey Goo
    • Only you can prevent Grey Goo

      Given that nantechnology has been used in the formulation of sun screens, one could then reasonably ask:

      Pardon me, do you have any Gray Goop on? :)

      (For the humor impaired, this is a parody of the "Pardon me, do you have any Gray Poupon?" mustard commercials.)

  • Progress! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thefirelane (586885) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:47PM (#15354342)
    We used to just regulate things that caused problems

    Now we want to regulate things that could cause problems

    Hopefully, in the future we'll regulate things that could lead to technology that could cause problems.

    • Regulations could cause problems, therefore we should regulate regulations!
    • by rhendershot (46429)
      If nobody thinks up these evil things then there won't be any dangers.

      All we need to do is regulate thought. yeah, that's it. regulate thought....
    • No, now we regulate people that make things so that they have to find out in advance, and inform us, wether their stuff cuses problems. Seems reasonable to me.
    • Yet another knee-jerk moderation from the Slashbots. Ok kids, this is not something to worry about in the future. It's already here. Just search google for "nanotech fish brains".

      LS
  • Instead of doing things on the 10-9 scale, the'll switch to 10-8 or 10-10.

    I can imagine the FDA breaking out their electron microscopes, deciding if a molecule falls within their scope of focus.
  • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:51PM (#15354374)
    If you want to kill off an industry, the best way to do so is to regulate it the way the medical industry and the aviation industry are regulated.

    In both cases, the industry in question is regulated not at the results level but at the process level. To change the way an airplane is manufactured, you have to get your manufacturing process recertified by the FAA. It's a great way to prevent technological progress. To put this into perspective, modern piston airplanes are still using mechanical fuel injection. We're talking technology that was first put into use in the 1950s.

    As a result, it takes the financial commitment of basically building an entirely new company in order to manufacture composite airplanes (as opposed to using aluminum sheetmetal and rivets). Manufacturers aren't allowed to truly compete with each other by continuously improving their products in meaningful ways because the cost of improving the product is too high. Everything has to be recertified when a real improvement is made.

    And the same is true for medical equipment, which is one of the big reasons your out of pocket expense for a simple MRI session is several thousand dollars.

    So if we want to make sure that the U.S. is dead last in nanotech, the best way to do it is to regulate it the way we regulate medical equipment and aviation.

    • I suppose I should mention an example of how to regulate an industry properly: the NHTSA.

      Automobile manufacturers don't have to get their manufacturing methods certified by the NHTSA. The NHTSA doesn't care how you manufacture something. It only cares about the end results: does the resulting product pass a battery of safety tests. If it passes, all is good.

      The end result is that auto manufacturers can continuously improve their product, as long as they continue to meet the result-oriented safety

    • >If you want to kill off an industry, the best way to do so is to regulate it the way the medical
      > industry and the aviation industry are regulated.

      What makes you think that this isn't exactly what the environmental groups pushing for regulation
      want? Sadly, many in the movement are little more than a bunch of anti-technology luddites..
    • This has to be one of the *dumbest* arguments I have ever heard.

      First off, the medical [bbc.co.uk] and aviation [chicagobusiness.com] industries are doing quite well, thank you. So process-level regulation is not the impending doom you make it out to be. Moreover, the example you give of piston-driven aircraft still using mechanical injection is ridiculous. My bicycle is still pedal powered... surely you don't believe that federal process-regulation of bicycle construction is the cause. Mechanical injection is reliable, cheap to build,
    • These two industries are shining examples of why the free market is not only a bad idea, but mostly a farce perpetuated by greedy entrepreneurs looking for a quick buck without regard to the harm they cause the rest of society. Filth, I tell you.

      The reasons these industries are highly regulated is because of the risks involved, which should be fucking obvious. Even with draconic regulation, there are still high levels of deaths related to faulty equipment, malpractice, and pharmaceuticals that weren't teste
  • They point out that there are more than 100 nanotechnology products and that nanoparticles can penetrate cells and tissues, migrate through the body and brain and cause biochemical damage."

    Makes perfect sense. Who better than the FDA to regulate skis [atomicski.com]?

    Of course, there are other things that "can penetrate cells and tissues, migrate through the body and brain and cause biochemical damage." Many of them occur in nature. Some of those (like buckyballs in smoke) are even nanoparticles.

  • Nanites could learn to work together, eating our computer cores in order to reproduce while they evolve into an intelligent collective life form. Won't someone think of the cores?
  • by FifthRaven (701549)
    EVERYTHING is nanoparticulate in nature, including you. Just because these particles are being chopped up and misced better does not by any means imply that they are unhealthy. Your skin does a pretty good job protecting you from nanoparticulate oils and debris from bacteria. Just because there is better organization at the nano scale does not mean that the nano-particles will cause any sort of damage.

    By placing a label on these products, consumers will irrationally be prejudiced against them. You should no
  • by SFSouthpaw (797536) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:57PM (#15354426) Homepage
    is micro management.
  • The FDA will regulate all nanotechnology which is part of either a Food or a Drug.
  • by TimmyDee (713324) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:00PM (#15354449) Homepage Journal
    Currently, many nanotech applications are in products (or proposed to be in products) that would come in direct contact with our bodies. Take sunscreen, for example. Some brands of sunscreen are being made with nanoparticles (thus making them nanotechnology) that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Do we have a clue what happens when those nanoparticles interact with our brain cells? Hell no! Has that stopped it from being on the market? Hell no!

    The issue at stake here is that we have a whole slew of products that have a significantly larger potential impact on our health. I'm not talking about the "smart" counter-top that will make plates out of itself just before dinner (although that would be cool -- I think Popular Science came up with that gem). I'm talking about practical applications of nanotech NOW. Nanoparticle sunscreen is just the first part. You'd better bet that the whole biomedical industry is looking into more advanced, more invasive nanotech applications. The jurisdiction would fall under the FDA sooner or later. Better sooner than later so they're not caught with their pants down.

    (I'm sure I'll get modded down for this one, but I think that we need to be cautionary to some degree. Otherwise we may have another DDT or thalidomide on our hands.)
  • Instead of stating 5-10 years all those Nano-Tech related Press Releases better start saying 15-20 years...
    well, at least the ones that weren't already saying 10+ years that is. :P

    I'm gleefully over-joyed at this news, since we all know the Government will keep us all safe because it knows best.

    *feh*
  • by i am kman (972584) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:08PM (#15354506)
    Well, nanotechnology is a pretty broad field.

    The nanotechnology the article refers to is primary nanoparticles added directly to food and drugs, so it seems reasonable that the FDA might oversee this area. For instance, if they're putting nanoparticles into sunscreen or cosmetics made with Titanium or Zinc, then it seems reasonable that the FDA would make sure those are safe.

    By design, nanoparticles are often far more reactive to surface chemistry than the same chemicals in other forms, so I'd want some regulations or at least basic studies. As the field evolves, there's also many very advanced medical applications for nanotechnology (such as tissue repair or targeted tumor attacks) that also should fall under their normal medical regulation and testing requirements.

    That said, the FDA certainly doesn't need to regulate IT-oriented applications such as telecommunications, nanobots, quantum computers or fields like metallurgy.

    It's like Arsenic. The FDA should regulate it in foods and drugs, but they don't have much to say about the GaAs semiconductor industry.

    The problem is more that the cosmetic industry has embraced the nanotechnology buzzword to make their new products seem super-high-tech and this makes the FDA a natural candidate for initial regulations, but they certainly won't be the only agency regulating them!
  • A Study (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @06:09PM (#15354514)
    I know Slashdot likes to blindly bash things that might prohibit technological advance. But it's been said that the effects of nanotubes could be as dangerous as asbestos.

    Here's a study conducted by researchers from NASA, Wyle Labs, UofT Medical:

    http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/ 77/1/126 [oxfordjournals.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... they approve and allow dangerous chemicals in USA milk :
    http://www.vpirg.org/campaigns/geneticEngineering/ rBGHintro.php/ [vpirg.org]
  • Alex Krycek (Score:2, Troll)

    by kuwan (443684)
    People at the FDA are just scared that Alex Krycek is going to inject one of them with some nano-bots and then kill them with his PDA unless they do as he says.
  • by Xeth (614132)
    It's high past time that the FDA Steps in. For far too long have these "Molecules" gone unregulated. The government needs to take a stand against these microscopic monsters before they destroy society.
  • Just get them to start using guns and smoking tobacco.

    Then the FDA won't be allowed to regulate them.

    Of course, I'm not sure what impact gun-toting cigar-smoking nanobots would have, but it would sure help the miniaturized saloon and spitoon industries ...
  • It wasn't hard to predict that the Slashdot-hive-mind reaction to this would be to attack the government, the FDA and/or make jokes about them regulating nanobots... But there is a very serious side to this. There are nanoparticles being placed into things like cleaners and other household products right now despite the fact that various studies show there is a high likelyhood that these nanoparticles can do severe, unrepairable damage to the lungs of people who are exposed to them. This story only seems
  • by nonlnear (893672) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @07:05PM (#15354836)
    FTA:
    ...An Australian government medical committee concluded this year that metal oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens mostly remain on the outer layer of skin, where DNA damage is not a big concern.

    The FDA regulates sunscreens as nonprescription drugs and does not require extra safety tests specific for nanoparticles. The agency has little authority over cosmetics.

    The excerpt alludes to a painfully obvious fact that the article authors are trying to gloss over: The ingredients being complained about have been in use far longer than the concept of nanotechnology has even existed.

    They are using "nanotech" as a fud smokescreen to get stricter controls over a whole bunch of ingredients. Like zinc oxide (the sunscreen ingredient refered to in the quote). The definition of nanoingredients presented in the article is deceptively vague:

    nanoingredients, defined as smaller than 100-millionths of a millimeter.

    That includes basically every molecule in existence other than very large things like soot, DNA strands, long nanotubes (ironically) etc.

    A better definition for regulatory purposes should define "nanoparticles" (admittedly a terrible term, but we're stuck with it now) as being particles between two appropriate threshold sizes - a minimum and a maximum, and whose interactions are not completely determined by chemical properties. (i.e. there is some "engineered" attribute which is not obvious given the composition.)

  • puzzled (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @08:35PM (#15355239) Journal
    I am not going to differentiate between nano-tech and nano-particles here even though I understand there is a difference between the two, but in the case of this post, I don't think the two terms need to be differentiated. To do so would be hair-splitting.

    I can see how the FDA could regulate nano-tech if it is an ingredient in food, medicine, cosmetics or if it is a "medical device". I can not see how they would be involved if it was a more "industrial" component (say an ingredient in paint or a component in some high tech alloy).

    It is the use more than the component that really makes a difference here. I really doubt that nano-tech used in electronics will ever be considered able to be regulated by the FDA until it is incorporated into something like a pacemaker.

    I hope I am correct in this but with our current state of government in the U.S.A. it is really hard to tell. It is probably only a matter of time until the FDA comes under the umbrella of "Homeland Security" then who knows what will happen.
  • by vik (17857) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @09:49PM (#15355548) Homepage Journal
    It's funny, but when the nanoparticles are produced by internal combustion engines - the source of the most potent non-radioactive carcinogens known - or from plasticisers used in plastic goods etc., the US government is positively glacial in its response.

    Start developing a new technology that promises to completely revolutionise the manufacturing and supply industries as we know them, and POW! Suddenly there is activity to ban it because it might produce nasty chemicals if done in an inconsiderate manner.

    So much for US industry.

    At this rate the US will be buying its nanotechnology from Venezuela.

    Vik :v)
  • by deacon (40533) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @08:04AM (#15356483) Journal
    FTA:

    The legal filing was synchronized with the release of a report by the environmental group Friends of the Earth that highlighted the growing number of personal care products with nanoingredients, defined as smaller than 100-millionths of a millimeter.

    From Steven Den Beste:

            Lemme see: 1/100 million == 10^-8. A millimeter is 10^-3 meter. Multiply them together and you get 10^-11 meter. So they're talking about banning particles smaller than 10 picometers.

            The smallest atom is helium, which is 280 picometers in diameter. The only things smaller are elemental particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons. I guess we have to ban everything made out of them, right?

            It would be interesting to know if this is the Wapo's mistake, or if Friends of the Earth really are that clueless. I wouldn't want to bet either way.

    All via Instapundit.
  • I rememeber reading about a problems with a "nano" a while back - just went and dug up he article. On re-reading I realized that though it talks about nan particles and health problems, the conclusion was that it was not the nanoparticles causing the health issue, it was something else in the product specific to it being an aerosol:

    http://www.economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm? story_id=6795430 [economist.com]

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