EPA Seeks Nanoscale Reporting Rule
WASHINGTON, DC—Federal regulators want to know more about those teeny, tiny chemical substances now pervading paints, construction materials and numerous other products.
At up to 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, nanoscale materials have become increasingly popular thanks to properties such as increased strength, lighter weight and greater chemical reactivity.
However, these minuscule substances also may take on different properties than their conventionally sized counterparts. Thus, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed one-time reporting and recordkeeping requirements on nanoscale chemical substances already in use in the marketplace.
Currently, the EPA reviews new chemical substances manufactured or processed as nanomaterials to make sure they are safe before they are introduced into the marketplace.
Now, for the first time, the agency is proposing to use the Toxic Substances Control Act to collect existing exposure and health and safety information on chemicals already in the marketplace when they are manufactured or processed as nanoscale materials.
The proposed rule, "Chemical Substances When Manufactured or Processed as Nanoscale Materials: TSCA Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements," was published April 6.
The EPA is requesting public comment on the proposal by July 6. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov.
The agency also plans to hold a public meeting during the comment period. Details will be announced here.
The proposal would require one-time reporting from companies that manufacture or process chemical substances as nanoscale materials.
According to the EPA, the proposal is not intended to conclude that nanoscale materials will cause harm to human health or the environment. Rather, the EPA would use the information to determine if any further action under the TSCA, including additional information, is needed.
Companies would be required to notify EPA of:
10 Years, 160+ Chemicals
Since 2005, the EPA has received and reviewed more than 160 new chemical notices under TSCA for nanoscale materials, including carbon nanotubes.
Determining potential health and environmental harm from nanoscale chemicals has been the focus of numerous federal research efforts in recent years. In 2013, NIOSH recommended sharply reducing worker exposure to carbon nanotubes and nanofibers, calling them potential "cancer promoters."
By 2020, the National Science Foundation estimates that nanotechnology will have a $3 trillion impact on the global economy.
"Nanotechnology holds great promise for improving products, from TVs and vehicles to batteries and solar panels," said Jim Jones, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
"We want to continue to facilitate the trend toward this important technology. Today's action will ensure that EPA also has information on nano-sized versions of chemicals that are already in the marketplace."
Eyes on Nano
The last few years have seen a push from federal agencies to monitor nanotechnology and develop standards for their use.
In 2010, the EPA began developing a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) and other regulations to address potential health and environmental risks from nanoscale materials.
In 2012, the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission undertook research to assess the potential impact of nanomaterials on human health and the environment.
The research was part of a larger international effort that focused on identifying the origins of nanomaterials, determining how they interact with the human body and the environment, and developing sustainable manufacturing processes.
In 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published guidelines that recommended limiting worker exposure to one microgram per cubic meter of air per eight-hour workday.
According to NIOSH, animal studies indicated that carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers potentially posed respiratory hazards and suggested that nanotubes could be a possible "cancer promoter."
Last year, the EPA announced a $10 million investment in research aimed at understanding nanomaterials throughout their life cycle. A $5 million grant was awarded to Arizona State University (Tempe), and a $4.9 million grant went to the University of California, Santa Barbara.