CTA Petition Demands EPA Stops Sale of Nano-Silver Products

The International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) and a coalition of consumer, health, and environmental groups filed a legal petition on May 1 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding the agency use its pesticide regulation authority to stop the sale of numerous consumer products now using nanosized versions of silver.

Increasingly, CTA says, manufacturers are infusing a large and diverse number of consumer products with nanoparticle silver ("nano-silver") for its enhanced "germ killing" abilities. CTA found more than 260 nano-silver products currently on the market, including household appliances, cleaners, clothing, cutlery, children's toys, personal care products, and coated electronics. CTA's petition states that the release of this unique substance may be highly destructive to natural environments and raises serious human health concerns.

"These nano-silver products now being illegally sold are pesticides," said George Kimbrell, CTA nanotech staff attorney. "Nano-silver is leeching into the environment, where it will have toxic effects on fish, other aquatic species and beneficial microorganisms. EPA must stop avoiding this problem and use its legal authority to fulfill its statutory duties."

Nanotechnology is a powerful new platform technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanoparticles can give them unique properties, CTA argues that those same new properties--tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, high reactivity--can also create unique and unpredictable human health and environmental risks.

CTA's petition demands that EPA regulate nano-silver as a unique pesticide that can cause new and serious impacts on the environment. The hundred-page petition calls on EPA to: regulate these nanotechnology products as new pesticides; require labeling of all products; assess health and safety data before permitting marketing; analyze the potential human health effects, particularly on children; and analyze the potential environmental impacts on ecosystems and endangered species.

"The law does not allow the agency to stand idle while a new legacy of toxic pollution emerges," said Joseph Mendelson, CTA legal director. "In an era of toxic water bottles, now is the time for the EPA to prevent a serious new environmental issue from occurring."

Many of the products listed in the petition's appendix are meant for children (baby bottles, toys, stuffed animals, and clothing) or otherwise create high human exposures (cutlery, food containers, paints, bedding, and personal care products).

Joining the CTA petition are: the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, ETC Group, Center for Environmental Health, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Clean Production Action, Food and Water Watch, the Loka Institute, the Center for Study of Responsive Law, and Consumers Union.

For more information, including the full text of the petition, visit www.icta.org.

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