Nanotechnology Risk Communication Past and Prologue


Address correspondence to Ann Bostrom, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, Parrington Hall, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3055, USA; tel: 1.206.685.8198;


Nanotechnologies operate at atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scales, at scales where matter behaves differently than at larger scales and quantum effects can dominate. Nanotechnologies have captured the imagination of science fiction writers as science, engineering, and industry have leapt to the challenge of harnessing them. Applications are proliferating. In contrast, despite recent progress the regulatory landscape is not yet coherent, and public awareness of nanotechnology remains low. This has led risk researchers and critics of current nanotechnology risk communication efforts to call for proactive strategies that do more than address facts, that include and go beyond the public participation stipulated by some government acts. A redoubling of nanotechnology risk communication efforts could enable consumer choice and informed public discourse about regulation and public investments in science and safety.