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Nanotechnology Research

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

21. To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what discussions he has had with the Health and Safety Executive on health and safety standards in nanotechnology research development. (187389)

Nanotechnologies offer potentially huge benefits to society, industry, the environment and health. They can help us improve our quality of life and respond to key issues, such as climate change, potentially contributing to improved energy storage and efficiency, better diagnosis and treatment of disease, faster computer systems, and remediation of polluted air, soil and water.

The Government are committed to understanding any potential risks of nanotechnologies and to managing them within a proportionate regulatory framework.

We have established a ministerial cross-departmental group that co-ordinates the UK’s programme of research into the health, safety and environmental implications of nanotechnologies. I chair this group which brings together Ministers from DEFRA, DH, DWP and BERR.

DIUS has provided sponsorship for research into “Health and Safety Exposure Assessment in the Workplace Relating to Nanotechnologies”. HSE representatives have endorsed this project. It is envisaged that this research will form the basis of a new standard in research development. DIUS is also funding research into the health effects of nanotechnology.

The development of standards is very important to enable both the development and the regulation of nanotechnologies. Recently, the British Standards Institution has published a number of UK standards that will help to frame the development of international and European standards, including the Guide to Safe Handling and Disposal of Manufactured Nanomaterials (PD 6699-2)1. This provides advice on good practice to those working in laboratories where research on new materials and applications is being undertaken, as this is where exposure to engineered free nanoscale materials is most likely to occur at present.

I will be making a statement about Government activities on nanotechnologies next Thursday. This will cover the development and commercialisation, as well as the potential risks and regulation of nanotechnologies.