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Labeling the Little Things

Jonathan H. Adler

Case Western Reserve University School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

August 2, 2010

Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-25

Nanotechnology processes and nanoscale particles are widely used in consumer products. Yet relatively few products containing nanomaterials reveal this fact on the product label. Is this a problem? The use of nanotechnology in consumer products has many potential benefits, but it may also pose unforeseen risks. There is as yet no definitive evidence that nanoscale materials used in consumer products pose a threat to human health, but such risks may still exist. Do such risks justify mandatory labeling requirements? Mandatory labels would not reduce the threat posed by the use or disposal of nanotech products, but could increase consumer awareness and empower concerned consumers to limit their exposure. Properly designed product labels can help consumers manage their exposure to risky or unproven products without unduly inhibiting consumer preferences generally. On the other hand, poorly developed labeling requirements could frustrate market responses to changes in scientific understanding or consumer preferences, impose unnecessary costs on manufacturers, and fail to address marketplace inefficiencies. In the United States, mandatory labeling requirements also raise potential First Amendment concerns. Before adopting a mandatory labeling requirement, policymakers should consider whether mandatory labels are necessary, or whether voluntary labeling regimes may be superior, with or without government assistance.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

Keywords: Nanotechnology, Labels, First Amendment, Compelled Commercial Speech, Mandatory Labeling, Health Law, Environmental Law, Consumer Protection

JEL Classification: K23, K32

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Date posted: August 3, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Adler, Jonathan H., Labeling the Little Things (August 2, 2010). Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1652345

Contact Information

Jonathan H. Adler (Contact Author)
Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )
11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
216-368-2535 (Phone)
216-368-2086 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.jhadler.net

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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