18 March 2008 23:08 [Source: ICIS news]
BALTIMORE, Maryland (?xml:namespace>
James Gulliford, assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a chemicals industry conference that the agency hopes to gather sufficient nanomaterials data under a voluntary submission programme that was launched in late January.
However, he said, “if industry does not volunteer, EPA will use its regulatory authority under TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] to obtain the data or take other actions”.
The agency, said Gulliford, is interested in anything related to nanomaterials production, including how manufacturers handle the materials and what precautions they take to protect production or research employees and consumers who use products containing nanomaterials.
The deadline for voluntary disclosure is 28 July.
EPA said it needs the information in order to build a base of knowledge toward what eventually will be a regulatory programme to ensure that nanomaterials do not pose a risk to human health and the environment.
Gulliford said that a handful of US companies have responded to the agency’s call for voluntary disclosure. Noting that there are still more than four months remaining until the 28 July deadline, Gulliford said he believes industry will respond in adequate fashion.
“I don’t anticipate the need to do that,” Gulliford said, referring to the possibility of a mandatory EPA programme to compel disclosure of nanomaterials products and related research and development (R&D).
“But if we were required to use our regulatory authority to obtain the information we need, we would move quickly,” Gulliford said.
“Our critics have said that a voluntary programme won’t work, so we can’t afford to be perceived as moving slowly or falling behind on this,” he said.
Environmental groups have already criticized the federal nanomaterials programme, saying the EPA action is “too little, too late”. Even some in industry have criticised the agency for moving too slowly.
In commercial and academic sectors there is concern that delay in establishing an EPA regulatory platform is needlessly postponing research and the potential for wide scale industrial investment in nanomaterials.
Both researchers and chemical industry leaders are reluctant to make major investments in time, effort or capital until they are certain what areas of nanomaterials development and production will be barred or restricted by the agency.
Gulliford spoke to some 400 chemical industry executives attending the annual GlobalChem conference on international regulations. Cosponsored by the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the conference runs through Wednesday.
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