Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Agencies Collaborate On Potential Impacts Of Nanomaterials

Dec 11: U.S. EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are collaborating in a worldwide research effort to assess any potential impacts of nanomaterials on people's health and the environment. Nanomaterials appear in many household products ranging from clothing to building materials. For example, one ongoing study evaluates the potential human and environmental effects from exposure to copper nanomaterials, an ingredient in wood treatment products used on wood for building decks and fences.

    The emerging field of nanotechnology has led to substantial advances in energy, medicine, electronics, and clean technologies. The field relies on using materials at the nanoscale level, these nanomaterials are made up of very small particles, which are about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Because of the unique properties of these materials, it is important to conduct research to identify methods that will allow manufacturers and other stakeholders to ensure that products containing these materials do not harm people or the environment. This research is a part of the U.S. government's efforts to assess the potential risks of nanomaterials. These efforts are coordinated by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). NNI is a collaborative project comprised of 25 agencies, including EPA and CPSC.

    Dr. Tina Bahadori, national program director for EPA's Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research said, "Nanotechnology and nanomaterials used in the development of these products improve our everyday lives, but it is important that we understand how humans are exposed to nanomaterials and to assess the risks they may pose to people's health and the environment. This innovative research greatly improves what is known about nanomaterials and will inform the future design of more sustainable, effective nanomaterials." 

    Dr. Treye Thomas, program manager for the CPSC Nanotechnology program said, "These tiny nanomaterials are widely used in products ranging from clothing to sunscreen, but the need for additional research and knowledge on how they affect consumers is great. The CPSC staff is working diligently to meet the challenges involved in regulating this emerging technology and is pleased to be collaborating with staff at EPA to develop test methods and exposure data to adequately address health and safety concerns."

    EPA's collaborative research with CPSC is part of a larger international effort that focuses on:
  • Identifying, characterizing and quantifying the origins of nanomaterials
  • Studying biological processes affected by nanomaterials that could influence risk
  • Determining how nanomaterials interact with complex systems in the human body and the environment
  • Involving industry to develop sustainable manufacturing processes
  • Sharing knowledge through innovative online applications that allow for rapid feedback and accelerated research progress
    CPSC, in working with other Federal agencies, ensures that common public health concerns are met and will use research findings to inform:
    • Protocol development to assess the potential release of nanomaterials from consumer products
    • Credible rules for consumer product testing to evaluate exposure
    • Determination of the potential public health impacts of nanomaterial used in consumer products
        In a related matters, on November 30, the Danish Consumer Council and the Danish Ecological Council has, in cooperation with DTU Environment, announced the development of a database that can help consumers identify more than 1,200 products that may contain nanomaterials. In the U.S. the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts, also has a database, which they say is not comprehensive, but gives the public the best available look at the 1,000+ manufacturer-identified nanotechnology-based consumer products currently on the market.
        Access a release from the agencies and link to EPA, CPSC and NNI (click here). Access a release on the Danish database and link to more information and the database (click here). Access information on the PEN database (click here). [#Toxics]
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