OIG indicates that nanomaterials are currently used in a wide variety of applications, including consumer products, health care, transportation, energy, and agriculture. The Agency considers nanomaterials as chemical substances that are controlled at the scale of approximately one-billionth of a meter. EPA has the authority, through several environmental statutes, to regulate nanomaterials. Although the development of nanomaterials and nanomaterial-enhanced products is expanding rapidly, the health implications of nanomaterials have not yet been determined.
OIG found that "EPA does not currently have sufficient information or processes to effectively manage the human health and environmental risks of nanomaterials. EPA has the statutory authority to regulate nanomaterials but currently lacks the environmental and human health exposure and toxicological data to do so effectively." The Agency proposed a policy under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to identify new pesticides being registered with nanoscale materials. After minimal industry participation in a voluntary data collection program, the Agency has proposed mandatory reporting rules for nanomaterials under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and is also developing proposed rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
- Program offices do not have a formal process to coordinate the dissemination and utilization of the potentially mandated information.
- EPA is not communicating an overall message to external stakeholders regarding policy changes and the risks of nanomaterials.
- EPA proposes to regulate nanomaterials as chemicals and its success in managing nanomaterials will be linked to the existing limitations of those applicable statutes.
- EPA's management of nanomaterials is limited by lack of risk information and reliance on industry-submitted data.
"We agree with OIG that the agency should have an internally consistent and coordinated approach across all offices, and are supportive of the recommendation that EPA develop an inter-office process for sharing information about nanomaterials. Creating a single public website about nanotechnology management, as OIG recommends, is one possible outcome of this information sharing and could help refute the notion that there is a lack of data about the potential health and environmental effects of nanomaterials and insufficient action being taken by EPA."