With nanotechnology now used in hundreds of consumer products ranging from paints to sunscreen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined a new research strategy to better understand how manufactured nanomaterials may harm human health and the environment. Nanomaterials are materials between approximately one and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is approximately 1/100,000 the width of a human hair.
The strategy outlines what research EPA will support over the next several years to generate information about the safe use of nanotechnology and products that contain nano-scale materials. The strategy also includes research into ways nanotechnology can be used to clean up toxic chemicals in the environment.
In addition to determining the potential hazards of nanotechnology, EPA is charged with developing approaches to reduce or minimize any risks identified. As part of the agency's strategy, researchers are investigating widely used nanomaterials, such as titanium dioxide, which is used in paints, cosmetics and sunscreens; and carbon nanotubes, which are used in vehicles, sports equipment and electronics .
The research is being conducted by EPA in its own laboratories and by grant recipients as part of a collaborative effort with other federal organizations and the international community.
EPA's research is conducted using a multidisciplinary approach that examines all aspects of nanomaterials in the environment, from their manufacture and use to their disposal or recycling. EPA's new nanotechnology web site provides more details about the research and offers related news and publications: http://www.epa.gov/nanoscience.