EPA Proposes Approach to Develop Nanotechnology Stewardship Program

EPA is seeking public comment on the agency's proposed approach to developing a Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP). EPA's approach will increase the scientific understanding and ensure appropriate oversight of nanoscale industrial chemicals to facilitate the responsible development of this growing technology, officials said on July 11.

According to the agency, the effort will call on manufacturers of engineered nanoscale chemical materials to develop and report key information needed on these materials to help ensure the safe manufacture and use of the products of nanotechnology. The NMSP proposes to cover, but is not limited to, existing chemical nanoscale materials manufactured or imported for commercial purposes as defined by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The NMSP will also help to provide a firmer, scientific foundation for regulatory decisions by encouraging the development of key scientific information and use of a basic set of risk management practices in developing and commercializing nanoscale materials.

EPA is seeking comment on a concept paper for the NMSP and the Information Collection Request (ICR) for the program. EPA is also seeking comment on a document, "TSCA Inventory Status of Nanoscale Substances -- General Approach," in which the agency states that it will maintain its practice of determining whether nanoscale substances qualify as new chemicals under TSCA on a case-by-case basis.

According to former EPA official and Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) senior advisor J. Clarence Davies, "The agency's current practice is inadequate to deal with nanotechnology. It is essential that EPA move quickly to recognize the novel biological and ecological characteristics of nanoscale materials. It can do this only by using the 'new uses' provisions of TSCA, a subject not mentioned in the EPA's inventory document. With the approach outlined by EPA and because of the weaknesses in the law, the agency is not even able to identify which substances are nanomaterials, much less determine whether they pose a hazard."

On Aug. 2, a public meeting will be held to receive comments. For more information on the public meeting or to read and comment on the documents, visit http://www.epa.gov/oppt/nano/nmspfr.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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