Nanotech insiders continue to spar over whether there should be widespread toxicity testing of nanomaterials. Not surprisingly, companies churning out products with nanomaterials in them tend to argue that existing regulations and testing are adequate to ensure these materials are safe, while environmental groups tend to call it the other way.
But just how much would wide-scale testing of nanomaterials cost? A trio of researchers at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and the University of British Columbia in Canada estimate that testing the toxicity of existing nanomaterials in the United States could cost between $249 million and $1.18 billion, depending on how comprehensive those tests are and whether they require testing on live animals.
Given the current levels of investment in nanohazard testing, the researchers suggest that full-scale nanotoxicity testing could take decades to complete. In order to speed the process and reduce the financial burden on small companies that dominate small tech start-ups, U.S. and Canadian researchers suggest that the United States should prioritize which materials should undergo the most rigorous testing based on what is already known about their toxicity as well as the potential human exposure. Such a tiered approach, they note, is already at the heart of the European Union's REACH program for testing toxic chemicals, which could serve as a model for nanomaterials toxicity testing in the United States.