Connecticut Law Review Volume 44 - Issue 2

The Growing Consumer Exposure to Nanotechnology in Everyday Products: Regulating Innovative Technologies in Light of Lessons from the Past

Nanoparticles are very small particles that are engineered using innovative technologies to be one to one hundred nanometers in size. Just how small is small? In comparison, a human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide. There are currently hundreds of unregulated and unlabeled consumer products on the market that contain engineered nanotech particles, with more on the way. A growing number of these nanotech products are being marketed for human consumption, including food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and sunscreens. This expanding market ignores the growing scientific understanding that these unique substances can create unintended human health and environmental risks. This Article discusses the public health, regulatory, legal, and ethical issues raised by the developing appreciation of the health risks associated with nanotech products. This Article proposes a method for regulating nanotech products that protects public health while encouraging technical innovation. This proposal is based on lessons learned from past introductions of new chemicals and innovative technologies such as asbestos, PCBs, DES, Thalidomide, medical X-rays, and Benzene which all had serious, long-term public health consequences.

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