US EPA to launch mandatory nanomaterials data plan

08 April 2009 00:13  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will launch a mandatory nanomaterials data programme within a year, a ranking agency official said on Tuesday, citing the failure of a voluntary research plan.

James Jones, an EPA deputy assistant administrator, told an industry conference that the chemicals sector missed “a golden opportunity to demonstrate that a voluntary approach could work” by failing to respond in sufficient numbers to an EPA request for disclosure of health and safety data on nano-products.

Nanomaterials have dimensions of 100 nanometres or less, with a nanometre being about one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. Nanoscale materials can have organisations and properties different than the same chemical substances at larger scales and may offer broad potential for new materials and applications.

Under its nanoscale materials stewardship programme (NMSP) launched in January 2008, the EPA invited industry to submit any and all information on the manufacture and use of nanomaterials.

The agency wanted anything related to nanomaterials production, including how manufacturers handled the materials and what precautions they took to protect production or research employees and consumers who use products containing nanomaterials.

EPA said it needed the information in order to build a base of knowledge toward what eventually would be a regulatory programme to ensure that nanomaterials do not pose a risk to human health and the environment.

However, by the end of last year, fewer than 50 companies had volunteered data on less than 200 nanomaterials or related products. The agency’s voluntary programme for collecting data on nanomaterials came under sharp attack by environmentalists.

Speaking at the opening session of the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem), Jones said that industry participation in the stewardship programme “was just not robust enough, did not get enough data to give us any degree of confidence that we could speak with any authority about hazards of nanomaterials in a general way”. 

“Now EPA is reviewing its regulatory tools to see how to get to where we need to be,” he said, indicating that there may be an announcement within a few months and that the agency would have a new regulatory approach within a year for collecting health and safety data on nanomaterials.

Cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the GlobalChem conference continues through Wednesday.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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