Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Administration Strategy For Nanotechnology-Related EHS Research

Feb 14: The Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology released a document describing the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) strategy for addressing priority research on the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of nanomaterials. The report, Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research, was prepared by the subcommittee’s Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group.

Importantly, it should be emphasized that the NSET Nanotechnology Strategy should not be confused with the U.S. EPA draft report titled, Draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (EPA/600/S-08/002), which was prepared by EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD), and announced in the Federal Register [73 FR 8309-8311, 2/13/08]. The EPA draft is undergoing an external peer review and public comment process that will hold a peer review meeting April 11, 2008 [See WIMS 2/13/08]. Public comments on the EPA strategy are due by March 13, 2008. Additionally, and also somewhat confusing, on January 28, 2008, EPA announced its Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP) that calls on manufacturers, importers, processors, and users of engineered nanoscale materials to voluntarily report to EPA key information about these materials within six months. EPA is not requesting that participants develop additional data, only that participants submit existing data [
See WIMS 1/28/08].

EHS research and information needs related to nanotechnology were identified in the NSET Subcommittee documents, Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials, published in September 2006 and, Prioritization of Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials: An Interim Document for Public Comment, released in August 2007.

According to a release, the latest NSET EHS Strategy presents a path for coordinated interagency implementation of research to address the needs identified in earlier reports. It is based in part on a detailed analysis of the Federal Government's FY 2006 nanotechnology-related EHS research portfolio, a $68 million investment in 246 projects. Experts from the NEHI Working Group analyzed how these activities addressed the priority research needs and then proposed emphasis and sequencing for future research efforts. Agency-specific research and regulatory needs, public comments on the prior documents, and considerations of the state of EHS research in the national and international nanotechnology communities all played an important role in shaping the strategy.

Dr. Clayton Teague, Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office said, “This EHS research strategy is the result of a terrific team effort led by the NEHI Working Group. It reflects a strong consensus and commitment among the NNI [National Nanotechnology Initiative] member agencies on the roles they will assume, consistent with their respective missions and responsibilities, to move the Federal efforts in nanotechnology-related EHS research forward. The quality of the document demonstrates that the NNI is working hard to understand -- and to think strategically about -- nano EHS issues in a systematic, coordinated fashion."

Also on February 14, NSET released a summary of the NNI Fiscal Year 2009 budget. According to the summary, the 2009 NNI budget provides increased support for research on fundamental nanoscale phenomena and processes, from $481 million in 2007 to $551 million in 2009. The proposed budget reflects substantial ongoing growth in funding for instrumentation research, metrology and standards (from $53 million in 2007 to $82 million in 2009) and in nanomanufacturing research (from $48 million in 2007 to $62 million in 2009). EHS R&D funding in 2009 ($76 million) is more than double the level of actual funding in 2005 ($35 million) -- the first year this data was collected.

In a related matter, Jim Gulliford, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, conducted an online interactive forum today (February 20) on the new Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program designed to examine the human health and environmental risks and benefits of nanoscale chemical products. A transcript of the forum is available from the links below.

The Federal Government's nanotechnology research programs, in general, fall under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Coordination of research in the field takes place through the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office provides technical and administrative support to the NSET Subcommittee and serves as a central point of contact for the NNI. The above programs operate under the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

Access a release from NSET with links to previous reports (click here). Access the complete EHS Strategy report (click here). Access the NNI website for additional information (click here). Access the FR announcement for EPA's Draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (click here). Access EPA's draft Nanomaterial Research Strategy (click here). Access the EPA interactive forum transcript (click here). Access the Office of Science & Technology Policy website (click here). Access links to other nanotechnology publications from EPA (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort Nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). Access various WIMS eNewsUSA Blog posts on Nanotechnology issues (click here). [*Toxics]