Small Packages (Rep. Bart Gordon)

Every day we come into contact with nanoparticles. Nanotechnology, a broad term for the field that incorporates tiny particles in materials and devices, is used to create over 800 consumer goods – from cosmetics, such as sunscreen, to food packaging to household cleaners to batteries.

In 2007, $60 billion in nano-enabled products were sold; and the Lux Research Group predicts that number will rise to $2.6 trillion by 2014. Since the range of potential applications of nanotechnology is broad — from electronics to energy transformation and storage, to medicine and healthcare — and affects so many industries as well as our economy, it is crucial that we ensure the safety of this new technology and address any potential downsides from the beginning in a straightforward and open way.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a multi-agency research and development (R&D) program that fosters the development of nanotechnology and coordinates the federal R&D programs. Currently, 13 federal agencies participate in the coordinating, planning, and implementing of NNI’s R&D programs. A December 2008 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report concluded that the NNI still lacks an adequate strategic plan and planning process for EHS research.

To strengthen and provide transparency to the federal research effort to understand the potential environmental, health, and safety risks of nanotechnology Ranking Member Hall and I introduced H.R. 554 last week. H.R. 554, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009, is identical to H.R. 5940, which passed the 110th Congress by a vote of 407 to 6. Our legislation requires that a senior official at the Office of Science and Technology Policy be responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of an environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research plan.

A thorough, transparent process that ensures the safety of new products will allow both the business community and the public to benefit from the development of these new technologies. As Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, I will work with the Committee’s Members to do everything in our power to protect the public’s safety while ensuring the advancement of nanotechnology.

Please see the Committee’s website for more information on the Committee’s work on Nanotechnology in the 110th Congress, including hearings and markups.