In April 2007, a Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee was formed to discuss and gain a better understanding of the emerging field of nanotechnology. As a first step, the Interagency Committee prepared a missions statement describing its work and a scope of the efforts. This document provides an update of the work of the Interagency Nanotechnology Committee in 2013.
The collaborating agencies include the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the Department of Labor Standards (DLS), the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Office of Technical Assistance & Technology (OTA) and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD). The collaborating agencies have different authorities and bring diverse interests to Committee forums, allowing for more comprehensive discussions of the nanotechnology sector in Massachusetts.
The mission of the Interagency Committee on Nanotechnology encompasses the missions of all of the agencies that it is comprised of.
- The Department of Environmental Protection is the state agency responsible for ensuring clean air and water, the safe management of toxics and hazards, the recycling of solid waste and the safe management of hazardous wastes, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.
- The mission of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards is to promote and protect workers' safety and health, wages and working conditions. In collaboration with public and private entities, DLS protects workers by means of education and training, workplace safety and health consultation and assessment, occupational injury and illness data collection and analysis, and consistent and responsible administration and enforcement of its statutes and regulations. DLS carries out its objectives in a manner that supports employers and strengthens the Commonwealth's communities and economy.
- The mission of the Toxic Use Reduction Institute is to conduct research, test and promote alternatives to toxic chemicals used in Massachusetts industries and communities; provide resources and tools for a safer place to live and work; and to promote economic competitiveness through improved efficiency, compliancy stability and reduced risk.
- The mission of the Office of Technical Assistance is to provide assistance in implementing effective toxics use reduction and other pollution prevention or resource conservation activities, and in complying with environmental and health and safety laws. OTA provides this assistance without assessing user fees, and on a confidential basis.
- The mission of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development is to assist companies who want to locate, expand, grow, or maintain a presence in Massachusetts. MOBD works with companies and municipalities to help them take advantage of available economic incentive programs. MOBD also assists companies in navigating and accessing the technical, human, financial, training, educational and site-finding resources necessary to expand or locate in Massachusetts.
The Interagency Committee has set forth three overarching goals:
- To initiate an ongoing dialogue with Massachusetts' industries, consumer representatives, other federal, state and local government agencies, academia, environmentalists and others to characterize the nanotechnology sector in Massachusetts.
- To use information from the dialogue to obtain a better understanding of nanomaterials and nanoproduct manufacturing, use, disposal, and hazards of the technology as well as potential roadblocks to safe development in order to work with the sector towards preventing unintended consequences.
- To educate and advise senior officials in the Administration as well as educate the public about the benefits and risks of nanotechnology and the necessary precautions Massachusetts is taking to protect public and occupational safety and health and the environment.
- Conduct research and maintain up-to-date information on the uses and hazards posed by nanoparticles and nanotechnologies.
- Collect information on local, state, national and international activities by government agencies.
- Work to raise awareness about the benefit and risks of nanotechnology within the affiliated agencies of the Committee.
As a result of the research performed by these agencies, and their discussions with relevant experts and interested parties from business, academia, professionals in the fields of environmental, health and safety (EHS), risk analysis, and others, the following guiding principles comprise the mission of the Interagency Committee.
- Nanotechnology holds great promise for the future and can provide many benefits to society. The interagency committee seeks to focus efforts where necessary to ensure that the technology develops safely in Massachusetts. Negative consequences of nanomaterials and/or nanoproducts on the environment and human health should be assessed and prevented.
- A proactive approach that prevents harm, while encouraging the continued exploration of the potential benefits of nanotechnology, that is protective of the industry as well as the public. The Interagency Committee is dedicated to finding appropriate measures such as best management practices, and providing guidance to minimize potential risks, and views this as a prudent means of promoting the safe development of nanotechnology. For example, interim measures recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2006 represent appropriate measures for protecting worker health and safety. The Committee will also seek to identify other appropriate guidance to protect workers, the environment and public health.
- The Interagency Committee encourages national leadership on the safe development of nanotechnology, but is prepared to address state matters as necessary and/or to coordinate with federal efforts.
- Assessing toxicity and/or other impacts associated with nanotechnology will require new tools and new strategies, since engineered nanoparticles and nanomaterials can have novel properties compared to bulk materials. For example, nanoparticles can have unpredictably altered physical and chemical properties; changes in absorption into the body; and environmental fate. The Interagency Committee is dedicated to working with all parties to identify new methodologies to adequately assess the fate and effects of engineered nanomaterials over the life-cycle of their production, use and disposal.
Duties of the Interagency Committee
The members of the Interagency Committee will:
- Meet regularly to conduct business;
- Consult with an external advisory committee on key matters;
- Invite outside speakers and experts to meet with the committee;
- Stay informed of local, federal and international activities on nanotechnology;
- Educate and inform our respective agency's chain-of-command and staff within their respective agencies on all relevant aspects of nanotechnology;
- Disseminate information on nanotechnology on Internet sites;
- Conduct research and engage in dialogue on environmental health and safety risks posed by nanomaterials and during the lifecycle of nanoproducts;
- Make recommendations for eliminating and reducing health and environmental risks by promoting best and good current practices;P
- Publish documents to disseminate important information on nanotechnology;
- Work to promote the safe use of nanotechnology in Massachusetts; and,
- Promote a cradle-to-cradle philosophy when engaged in dialogues on nanotechnology.