An agency task force reported recently that nanotechnology, based on those tiny particles so small that they're measured in billionths of a meter, is already being used in consumables, adding benefits and unknown risks to humans and the environment.
The task force concluded that the FDA has inadequate tools to judge the impact of nanotech products on the human body and the environment. The commission made several recommendations for regulating the nascent industry.
The report was enthusiastically endorsed by FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, who created the task force in 2006. But a public interest group that has been pressing the FDA for immediate oversight measures panned the recommendations as a delaying action.
The International Center for Technology Assessment, a nonprofit public interest group, said that since many nanotech products are already in the market, nano-specific regulatory procedures should be developed quickly.
"We're talking about something that's on the market now, things people are putting on their bodies and releasing into the environment," said staff attorney George Kimbrell. "They're putting off to a future day what needs to happen today."
The task force suggested the FDA take comments from the public and develop guidelines for manufacturers.
"While available evidence does not suggest that all materials with nanoscale dimensions will be hazardous, the task force correctly concludes that the agency needs new safety assessment tools, greater nano-specific staff expertise and more risk research to assess the likelihood of long-term health effects from exposure to specific nanoscale materials," said Michael Taylor, a research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and a former FDA official.