The Proposed Ban on Certain Nanomaterials for Electrical and Electronic Equipment in Europe and Its Global Security Implications: A Search for an Alternative Regulatory Approach
Europe came close to become the first region to ban certain types of nano-materials for electrical and electronic equipment as part of the recast of the Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS Directive) in the European Union. Although this attempt eventually failed in 2011, the preceding debate illuminates challenges posed to the regulation of nanomaterials, and in particular to the implementation of the precautionary principle in that context, when nanotechnology has the great potential to enable the development of novel products relevant to global efforts to counter various security threats such as energy security, resource security, counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. This article will examine as a case study the recent debate over the ban on the use of certain nanomaterials in electric and electronic equipment in Europe for the purpose of highlighting those challenges confronting the application of the precautionary principle in the context of nanotechnology regulation when the regulatory decision-making may have broader security implications. This article will then set out an alternative regulatory approach by which a more balanced and targeted decision-making process concerning use of nanomaterials can be achieved to accommodate broader security concerns.