The Washington DC based Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Technologies is compiling a global inventory of consumer products which contain nanoparticles using information provided by consumers as well as industry and scientists. To date what the Center calls a ‘living inventory’ contains 1638 products. The full list can be browsed on the project website at http://www.nanotechproject.org/cpi/
The Project, established in 2005, is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized. The Center makes clear that it is not an advocate either for, or against, particular nanotechnologies. It claims that it seeks to ensure that as these technologies are developed, potential human health and environmental risks are anticipated, properly understood, and effectively managed. Anyone can register on the site and submit information on a product which uses nanotechnology. Registrants are asked to submit or update information pertaining to nanoparticle function, location, properties, potential exposure pathways, toxicity and life cycle assessment, though many of the products currently listed contain little more than product name, manufacturer, category, and market. Manufacturers of products containing nanoparticles may want to check and update their product listing with accurate information.
This crowdsourcing of information and expertise is a novel approach to documenting the introduction of a family of relatively new ingredients into the marketplace. It will be interesting to follow the evolution of the database. If successful, similar crowdsourcing approaches are likely to be applied to many other issues of public interest, both nationally and globally. Some such initiatives may be organized by supporters or neutral agencies but others will be organized by opponents of certain technologies and products. Extended ‘democratization’ of the consumer marketplace using similar crowdsourcing projects may well be on the horizon.
The Wilson Center, more properly known as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is a memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, the only President of the United States with a Ph.D. that was established by an act of Congress in 1968. It is a highly recognised think tank, with a mission “to commemorate the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson by: providing a link between the world of ideas and the world of policy; and fostering research, study, discussion, and collaboration among a full spectrum of individuals concerned with policy and scholarship in national and world affairs.”