TR: Given the potential benefits, do you think enough companies will regulate voluntarily to make a new law unnecessary?
RD: That remains to be seen. Some of us believe that EPA’s voluntary program should be coupled with a regulation that doesn’t impose any testing requirements, but simply says “tell us what you’re doing.” It insures that EPA gets a full picture of what’s going on. In some ways I think there’s a business argument for this too – that it creates a more level playing field, and companies that do step forward aren’t penalized by being at a disadvantage to companies that are hiding in the weeds.
TR: If a new law proves to be necessary, what should it look like?
RD: I’m certainly not of the view that we know enough right now, even if there was a political will, to lay out prescriptions. It’s going to be an iterative process. We’re climbing a learning curve, and dealing with a bit of a moving target. So we need to retain flexibility; but we need to lay a foundation for ultimately developing a regulatory approach that is comprehensive, allows for innovation, but also provides for public trust and dealing with real risks.
TR: What’s one of the first things that needs to be done?
RD: We absolutely need to have a better research strategy in place that says: here are the questions that need to be answered, and we will have answers to these within two years or three years, and we’re spending the money on the right things.
TR: Will fair regulation of a field as complex as nanotechnology be possible without a radical new approach?
RD: We’ve dealt with some pretty tough issues in regulation and legislation, and I don’t know if nano is so novel or so unique that it’s going to require a whole new approach. We understand the basics of assessing hazard. We understand the basics of assessing exposure and mitigating exposure. Those need to be tailored and adapted to the characteristics of nanomaterials, but I don’t know that we’re talking about anything much more radical than that.