In an effort to examine the effects of nanotechnology on the environment, the EPA, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), has asked participants from the emerging nanotech industry to voluntarily submit data regarding the “material characterization, hazard, use, potential exposures, and risk management practices” involved in their techniques of production.
UPDATE:In January 2009, the EPA released its Interim Report, available here.
Under the Federal Register Notice, released on January 28, 2008 “The program encompasses participants who manufacture, process, use, or import nanoscale materials for commercial purposes, including those who:
- Physically or chemically modify or process an engineered nanoscale material.
- Physically or chemically modify or process a non-nanoscale material to create an engineered nanoscale material.
- Use engineered nanoscale materials in the manufacture of a product.”
One significant issue at stake is how to define nanomaterials. Under the current TSCA requirements, new materials must be registered to EPA.
In order to clarify the question of what exactly constitutes a new material, the EPA has released a document entitled TSCA Inventory Status of Nanoscale Substances – General Approach.
Summing up EPA’s understanding of new materials, the document states:
A nanoscale substance might not have a non-nanoscale counterpart with the same molecular identity (e.g., nanotubes and carbon fullerenes), or a substance might be found in both nanoscale and non-nanoscale forms, but if the substance has not been reported previously to EPA and placed on the Inventory in either form, it is considered a new chemical.
The ultimate goal of the Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program is to provide the groundwork for future regulations. With the voluntary assistance of industry leaders now, the EPA hopes to get an accurate account of the environmental, health and safety hazards that might arise in the future.