© 2005 Elsevier

Transmission electron micrographs of multi-walled carbon nanotubes in human epidermal keratinocytes. (From N. Monteiro-Riviere et al., Toxicol Lett, 155:377–84, March 15, 2005.)

It's not often that an industry volunteers for tighter regulation and oversight. But that's just what happened this past June, when the Environmental Protection Agency hosted a meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss a voluntary pilot program aimed at collecting information on existing nanoscale materials in order to evaluate potential risks and exposures. The attendees, 150 scientists and officials representing industry, academia, government, and environmental and health advocacy groups, unanimously agreed such a system should be implemented.

But it won't be easy. Conventional approaches to risk assessment, toxicity screening, and ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) modeling don't necessarily apply to nanoscale materials. Even nomenclature is a problem: Existing measures for regulating new chemical substances distinguish materials by name, not size....

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