Berkeley First In Nation To Regulate Local Nanotechnology Activities

Berkeley City Council adds nano-sized particles to hazardous materials law.

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) – The Berkeley City Council has approved the nation's only local nanotechnology regulations by amending its hazardous materials law to include nano-sized particles – some as small as one-millionth the width of the head of a pin. The change is to take effect on Friday.

The regulation requires researchers and manufacturers to report what nanotechnology materials they are working with and how they are handling them.

The amendment, which has been two years in the works, was prompted by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's plans to launch the Molecular Foundry, a nanotechnology department.

According to Berkeley city officials, the amendment is mostly aimed at monitoring nanotechnology startups and small businesses, rather than the efforts at the national lab, which is not subject to local regulations because it is governed by the Department of Energy.

The lab initially opposed the city's plans, but now it says it will work with Berkeley leaders.

''Since then, they have come a long way,'' said Nabil Al-Hadithy, the city's hazardous material manager. ''We can now look at them to assist us because they have all the experts.''

Al-Hadithy hopes Berkeley's new law will pave the way for other cities. ''We're hoping others will use this format and duplicate it in health and safety codes around California,'' he said.

In the commercial world, nanotechnology is being used to develop new products and materials by changing or creating components at the atomic and molecular level.

It is still not clear, though, if these materials can cause environmental and health problems.

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