Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One Year Assessment Of Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program

Jan 12: One year following the launch of the U.S. EPA Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP) [See WIMS 1/28/08], the Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics has released the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program Interim Report. The program called on manufacturers, importers, processors, and users of engineered nanoscale materials to voluntarily report to EPA key information about these materials within six months. EPA did not request participants to develop additional data, only to submit existing data.

EPA says the purpose of the Interim Report is to summarize the information that has been submitted to the Agency under the NMSP. The findings and conclusions in the report should not be construed or interpreted to represent any Agency regulatory or statutory guidance or statement of official.

Under the "Basic Program," EPA invited participants to voluntarily report available information by July 29, 2008, on the engineered nanoscale materials they manufacture, import, process or use. By that date, the Agency received submissions from 16 companies and trade associations covering 91 different nanoscale materials. As of December 8, 2008, twenty-nine companies or associations submitted information to EPA covering 123 nanoscale materials and a further seven companies have outstanding commitments to the Basic Program. EPA also invited participants to submit new data that became available for nanoscale materials already reported or to identify additional nanoscale materials to report under the Basic Program. EPA said it is evaluating the information submitted under the Basic Program through a process similar to that of a new chemical review.

Under the "In-Depth Program," EPA invited participants to work with the Agency and others on a plan for the development of data on representative nanoscale materials over a longer time frame. By the 6-month mark, one company had agreed to participate in the In-Depth Program; by December 8, 2008, 4 companies have agreed to participate.

EPA said, "Based on the current interim results, the NMSP can be considered successful. However, a number of the environmental health and safety data gaps the Agency hoped to fill through the NMSP still exist. EPA is considering how to best use testing and information gathering authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act to help address those gaps. The Agency said it welcomes comments on this interim report and will issue a more detailed final report and program evaluation at the conclusion of the NMSP in early 2010.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an active participant in the nanotechnology policy debate, issued a lengthy release saying that EPA "has acknowledged 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." EDF said, "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 (CBI)."

Dr. Richard Denison, a senior scientist at EDF, who advised EPA on its approach to nanomaterials as a member of the National Pollution Prevention and Toxics Advisory Committee (NPPTAC) said, "EPA's voluntary approach has failed to provide both EPA and the public with critical data on the full range of nanomaterials in production and use in the United States. With hundreds of nano products already on the shelves, EPA has squandered precious time while it slowly developed and pursued a program that informed stakeholders cautioned would not yield what was needed."

He continued, "We welcome EPA's statement that it is finally 'considering how to best use testing and information gathering authorities under the Toxic Substances Control Act' to address the remaining gaps in information." More than three years ago, the National Pollution Prevention and Toxics Advisory Committee advised EPA immediately to begin developing such mandatory measures as a supplement to the voluntary program, recognizing it would not be sufficient. EPA now needs to refocus its energies on these critical tasks."

In related matters, on December 10, 2008, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council (NRC) issued a new report, Review of the Federal Strategy For Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health and Safety Research, that found "serious weaknesses" and was highly critical of the government's plan for research on the potential health and environmental risks posed by nanomaterials [See WIMS 12/10/08].

Access the complete 38-page report which contains commenting instructions (
click here). Access EPA's NMSP website for more information (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posts on nanotechnology (click here). Access WIMS-EcoBizPort nanotechnology links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]

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