German EPA warns against Nanoparticles

The following story will likely remain unreported in the US media:

Germany’s Umweltbundesamt (UBA) [Federal Environmental Agency] will release a new study today advising consumers to avoid products using nanoparticles, as long as their effects on the environment and human health are largely unknown. The federal agency is also calling for regulations on labeling and reporting products containing nanomaterials. This would affect the more than 800 German companies that use the new technology in their products. (via Nanopublic)

This is huge, like if the FDA were to warn against the use of cellphones because it has “been linked with cancer.”

Daniel Ellsberg: “America has been asleep at the atomic wheel for 64 years” (recommended reading)

Arms control is an important issue for me, not just because I scared myself shitless from nanotechnology science fiction during college, but because I also managed to get a ‘biological and chemical arms control’ course under my belt at Vassar . Our worldly relationships as nation units have built up a great deal of terrible weapons. More fear, more weapons. Sadly, when the fear diminishes, we don’t unbuild the tools our fear built.

From the man who delivered the Pentagon papers in 1971:

“We have long needed and lacked the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers on the subject of nuclear policies and preparations, nuclear threats and decision-making: above all in the United States and Russia but also in the other nuclear-weapons states. I deeply regret that I did not make known to Congress, the American public and the world the extensive documentation of persistent and still-unknown nuclear dangers that was available to me 40 to 50 years ago as a consultant to and official in the executive branch working on nuclear war plans, command and control and nuclear crises. Those in nuclear-weapons states who are in a position now to do more than I did then to alert their countries and the world to fatally reckless secret policies should take warning from the earlier inaction of myself and others: and do better.”

Unlike nearly everyone else outside the Manhattan Project, my first awareness of the challenges of the nuclear era had occurred—and my attitudes toward the advent of nuclear weaponry had formed—some nine months earlier than those headlines, and in a crucially different context.
It was in a ninth-grade social studies class in the fall of 1944. I was 13, a boarding student on full scholarship at Cranbrook, a private school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Our teacher, Bradley Patterson, was discussing a concept that was familiar then in sociology, William F. Ogburn’s notion of “cultural lag.” …

…The idea was that the development of technology regularly moved much further and faster in human social-historical evolution than other aspects of culture: our institutions of government, our values, habits, our understanding of society and ourselves. Indeed, the very notion of “progress” referred mainly to technology. What “lagged” behind, what developed more slowly or not at all in social adaptation to new technology was everything that bore on our ability to control and direct technology and the use of technology to dominate other humans….

read more at wikileaks… my favorite source for world news!

…Recently I spoke with a friend of my father’s who had interviewed nuclear scientists in the 90s at the Alamo research labs. At one point he spoke with a well respected nuclear physicist who explained his raison d’être. The scientist had grown up alongside the grad students at Princeton eager to construct bombs, and decided then and there to learn bomb-making just so he could disassemble them down the road. Fifty years later, he is one of the few living nuclear physicists capable of disassembling nuclear bombs, and is frantically disassembling / building disassembly schematics for the aging thousands upon thousands of bombas–all with aging trigger systems–around the world. Sadly, he (whose name I forget) is now in Russia where his skills are golden mana from heaven.

Religion and Nanotechnology and ‘Framing Nano’ report

The Swiss think tank ‘The Innovation Society’ has released a report titled “Framing Nano” (pdf) which explores governance and regulation/legislation in nanotechnology.

Some teasers:

  • France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK and some Scandinavian countries are the most active countries in Europe in addressing the issues related to nanoregulation. The report also describes the various voluntary measures currently in progress or already completed.
  • Nanoregulation must be regarded as a dynamic issue which must adapt to the evolution of the scientific knowledge, applications and public attitude. A continuous updating must be part of the governance of nanotechnology.
  • Public acceptance and public engagement are core aspects of the debate. While in the USA and some other countries, public participation is seen, in the first place, as an instrument to ensure public acceptance (or to avoid negative risk perception), European vision seems more focused on fostering the broader concept of “public engagement” in the development and governance of nanotechnologies as a way of democratic legitimisation.
  • As a general conclusion, most governments and regulatory authorities consider existing regulatory frameworks, such as REACH in Europe and TSCA in USA, appropriate in principle to deal with many of the nanomaterials currently in use. However, the many divergent positions regarding different stakeholder groups are also pointed out in the mapping study.

The bolded text speaks to a report (Religious beliefs and public attitudes toward nanotechnology in Europe and the United States) released in Dec of 08 regarding a survey of Nanotechnology’s “Moral Acceptability.” The study established a correlation between religiosity and moral acceptability of nanotechnology. The more religious respondants deemed nanotechnology more unacceptable. This is a feature of the American psyche that has affected how public institutions approach and frame Nano issues. To appear safe, new technologies must be more rigorously framed as morally ambivalent than in European (read: godless) nations. Observe the pretty graph:


So what do you make of this?