Nanomaterials Reporting Program Just Scratches Surface of Industry Use

EPA says that its voluntary approach to reporting has yielded only limited information on a small fraction of the hundreds of potentially toxic nanomaterials already in commercial use or in development in the United States, according to Environmental Defense Fund. In an "interim report" issued nearly a year after launch of its Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, EPA disclosed that it has received submissions addressing less than 10 percent of the more than 1,000 nanomaterials EPA identified as likely to be in commercial production. Moreover, the voluntary submissions contain scant environmental health and safety data, and much of the information they do contain is kept secret from the public because the companies submitting the data claim it is confidential business information.

While still claiming the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program to be "successful," EPA's report concedes that the program has come nowhere close to assembling a full picture of research and commercial activity involving nanomaterials. According to the report, the submissions encompassed only one-seventh of the unique chemical structures on which nanomaterials in use or development are based, and the toxicity and environmental fate data were provided for at most a few percent of these nanomaterials, confirming that only a small fraction of all nanomaterials have been sufficiently studied despite their rapid commercialization. EPA acknowledges it cannot determine whether participants submitted information on all or only a subset of nanomaterials they produce, and whether information submitted for a given nanomaterial was complete or selective. Only four companies have agreed to consider conducting any testing, leading EPA to conclude that "most companies are not inclined to voluntarily test their nanoscale materials."

EPA says it is "considering how to best use testing and information gathering authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to help address those gaps." It added, however, it will continue to review new chemical nanoscale materials submitted under the TSCA sections 5(a) and 5(h)(4) and apply, as appropriate, testing requirements and exposure controls under section 5(e) and Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) under section 5(a)(2).

The agency says it welcomes new participants and information submissions for the NMSP, which will continue until January 2010. It added in the report that it will continue to explore the best ways to gather the information needed to provide a firmer scientific foundation for regulatory decisions on nanoscale materials. The report is available at www.epa.gov/oppt/nano/nmsp-interim-report-final.pdf.

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