FDA Holds Yet Another Nanotech Meeting, But Still No Action

FDA Holds Yet Another Nanotech Meeting, But Still No Action

Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth: 202-222-0735
George Kimbrell, International Center for Technology Assessment, 202-547-9359

Watchdog Groups Slam Agency for Continued Delay and Inaction

ROCKVILLE, MD—The Food and Drug Administration came under heavy fire today at a meeting it held to once again solicit comments regarding the agency’s oversight of nanomaterials. The FDA held a similar meeting in October 2006. A coalition of nonprofit consumer and environmental groups accused the agency of being derelict in its duty to protect Americans from harmful products.

“Emerging science raises concerns about potential human health threats from nanoparticles, but the FDA allows them to be put into our cosmetics, our medicines—even our food,” said Ian Illuminato of Friends of the Earth. “More than two years after being warned about these dangers, the FDA still refuses to act. It’s unacceptable.”

At the 2006 meeting, many scientists and nonprofit groups—including Friends of the Earth and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)—gave presentations and submitted comments detailing why FDA oversight of nanotechnology was inadequate. The organizations also urged Americans to send written comments to the FDA and demand stronger oversight.

“Despite having received thousands of comments from Americans concerned about the threat that nanomaterials pose to human health and the environment, FDA still refuses to regulate such materials, adapt regulations for the new properties and risks of nanotechnology, or even require products be labeled,” said Jaydee Hanson, the International Center for Technology Assessment’s (ICTA) policy director. “This meeting is more of the same: all talk, no action. The agency has not even tried to address the public’s vocal concerns.”

The manufacture of products using nanotechnology—a powerful platform for manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter their properties—has exploded in recent years. Hundreds of consumer products incorporating nanomaterials are now on the market, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. But evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. Studies have raised doubts about the safety of nanoparticles, suggesting that their tiny size may make them more toxic, that they may produce unpredictable immunological responses, and that some can penetrate major organs including the brain.

In May 2006, a coalition including ICTA and Friends of the Earth filed the first legal action on the risks of nanotechnology, a legal petition to the FDA calling on the agency to regulate nanomaterials in consumer products. “FDA has had the blueprint on how to move forward with nanotechnology pending before it for over two years, wrapped with a bow,” said ICTA staff attorney George Kimbrell. “That the agency has failed to act is more of this administration’s anti-science, anti-regulatory political agenda that will pass the buck to the next administration to tackle.”

FDA called today’s meeting to again request public comments regarding the agency’s oversight of nanomaterials in various consumer products. The public meeting was also held with an eye towards implementing guidelines proposed by an FDA task force. The task force’s report is not new—it came out in August 2007—and did not recommend any mandatory action by the agency.



Friends of the Earth (foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.

The International Center for Technology Assessment is a non-profit, non-partisan group that assesses a full range of technologies for their effects on the environment, human health, and social justice. Its latest work on nanotechnology can be found at: www.nanoaction.org