Oct 10 - Oct 10, 2007

This public dialogue on nanotechnology and the consumer was hosted by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts), in cooperation with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports and Consumer Reports Online.

Nanotechnology—the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things between 1 and 100 nanometers (1 billionth of a meter)—is seen as the driver of a new industrial revolution emerging with the development of materials that exhibit new properties and potential new risks and benefits at this tiny scale. However, according to recent polls, the majority of Americans have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology, even as consumer products containing nanomaterials are entering the marketplace at a rapid pace. There are already over 575 nanotechnology consumer products available to the consumer, with nanoscale materials now in use in cosmetics, clothing, sports equipment, electronics, automobiles, and home furnishings.

We decided to launch this dialogue in order to provide an easily accessible venue for the public to discuss information and share their thoughts about the usage and potential benefits and risks of consumer products made with nanomaterials. It was aimed at exploring key issues surrounding the ways that consumers, citizens, students, researchers, policymakers, scientific experts, and the media learn about and respond to nanotechnology consumer products. Participants in the dialogue had the opportunity to ask questions of expert panelists about nanotechnology, to examine its use in consumer products, to discuss who is responsible for oversight, and to brainstorm with each other on needed future actions.

We hope to use information that emerged from this conversation to inform policymakers about how consumers perceive the use of nanotechnology in products that they can buy in the stores or over the Internet and what consumers think about related risks, benefits, and uncertainties.

We encourage you to view the discussion archives and summaries and library resources posted on this site. Individuals interested in receiving information on upcoming topics related to nanotechnology, should register on this site.

Thank you to all who participated in the Consumers Talk Nano Web Dialogue on October 23-24! We hope you will find this archive an interesting and worthwhile resource.