US may make voluntary nanomaterials data plan mandatory

12 January 2009 23:21  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Federal regulators said on Monday that a voluntary research effort with the US chemicals industry to gather data on nanomaterials has been successful but that a mandatory reporting requirement may be necessary.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that as of 8 December 29 companies or associations had submitted information covering 123 nanoscale materials and that seven other firms have committed to providing detailed data on their nanomaterials processes and products.

EPA said its interim report on operation of the voluntary data collection plan, known as the nanoscale materials stewardship programme (NMSP), shows that the approach “can be considered to be successful”, but that the agency is leaning toward a mandatory reporting obligation anyway.

In mid-2008, the agency had reported that 16 companies or trade associations had responded to its January 2008 invitation for data, providing information on 91 different nanoscale materials.

The agency’s July 2008 report on progress toward a firm scientific foundation for regulatory decisions on nanomaterials came under fire from environmental groups who argued that industry’s response under the voluntary approach was wholly inadequate.

In its report issued on Monday, the EPA appears to suggest that the voluntary programme was not working as well as the agency had hoped.

“A number of the environmental health and safety data gaps the agency hoped to fill through the NMSP still exist,” EPA said.

The report suggests that the agency may resort to mandatory reporting requirements under existing federal law to acquire the needed information.

“EPA is considering how to best use testing and information gathering authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act [TSCA] to help address those gaps,” the agency said.  TSCA is the principal US chemicals control statute and regulatory programme.

The voluntary NMSP approach will continue through the end of this year and EPA said a final report on the programme will be issued early in 2010.

While EPA “continues to welcome new participants and information submissions for the NMSP”, the agency indicated that it will simultaneously “explore the best ways to gather the information needed to provide a firmer scientific foundation for regulatory decisions on nanoscale materials.”

EPA officials had earlier hinted that the agency might resort to mandatory reporting if industry’s response to the voluntary programmed proved lacking.  In mid-2008 major US chemical trade groups had urged their members to respond under the voluntary programme, warning that EPA otherwise would issue a mandatory reporting requirement.

The new 111th US Congress appears certain to draft new requirements governing research and development (R&D), production processes and end-use products involving nanomaterials.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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