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The Product Life Cycle and Challenges to Nanotechnology Regulation
Volume 3, Issue 4

Ahson Wardak, ENVIRON International Corporation
Nathan Swami, University of Virginia
Michael E. Gorman, University of Virginia

Traditional regulatory strategies are based on known risks. The risks for nanotechnologies are not known, and by the time they are, we may be locked into certain technological options. Current regulatory strategies do not take a higher-level view of the system. This article describes public health and environmental regulation of nanomaterials with a product life cycle model. This model is frequently referred to as environmental life cycle analysis. Using the model, life cycle stages are reviewed with the applicable regulations, and different gaps are exposed within the framework. Interdisciplinary work is needed to traverse gaps between regulatory agencies and statutes. Trading zones are a useful metaphor to describe this work. Earth Systems Engineering Management is referred to as a possible solution to the need for proactive technology management that takes a systems perspective. The life cycle mode, despite its limitations, proves that present forms of risk regulation will not be able to regulate a technology as vast and unpredictable as nanotechnology.

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