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EPA Issues Final Nanotechnology White Paper

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., February 22, 2007

On February 15, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Nanotechnology Working Group (NWG) made available its final Nanotechnology White Paper.  The White Paper is intended to inform EPA management of the science issues and needs associated with nanotechnology, to support related EPA program office needs, and to communicate these nanotechnology science issues to stakeholders and the public. 

The White Paper provides a basic description of nanotechnology, why EPA is interested in it, potential environmental benefits of nanotechnology, risk assessment issues specific to nanotechnology, and a discussion of responsible development of nanotechnology and the Agency’s statutory mandates.  The paper also provides an extensive review of research needs related to the environmental implications of nanotechnology, as well as the potential applications of nanotechnology for environmental remediation.  To help EPA focus on priorities for the near term, the paper concludes with staff recommendations for addressing science issues and research needs, and includes prioritized research needs within most risk assessment topic areas, including research on human health effects research and environmental fate and transport.

As we reported last year, the NWG issued an external review draft of the Nanotechnology White Paper in December 2005.  The final White Paper incorporates the same policy recommendations originally proposed in the 2005 draft, including:

  • Pollution Prevention, Stewardship, and Sustainability:  EPA should engage resources and expertise in the development of approaches that promote pollution prevention, sustainable resource use, and good product stewardship in the production and use of nanomaterials.  In addition, EPA should draw on new nanotechnologies to identify ways to support “green energy” and “green manufacturing.”
  • Research:  EPA should undertake and support research to better understand and apply information regarding nanomaterials’ (1) chemical identification and characterization; (2) environmental fate; (3) environmental detection and analysis; (4) potential releases and human exposures; (5) human health effects; (6) ecological effects; and (7) environmental technology applications.
  • Risk Assessment:  EPA should conduct case studies on several engineered/manufactured nanomaterials to identify unique considerations for risk assessments on nanomaterials.
  • Collaboration and Leadership:  EPA should expand its collaborations regarding nanomaterial applications and potential human health and environmental implications.
  • Cross-Agency Workgroup:  EPA should convene a standing cross-Agency workgroup to foster information sharing on science and policy issues.
  • Training:  EPA should expand its nanotechnology training activities for scientists and managers.

The Agency conducted an external peer review of the draft in April 2006.  As recommended in that review, the final White Paper now establishes timelines during which EPA will focus on specific questions, anticipating the development of “systematic and integrated approaches to assess, manage, and communicate risks associated with engineered nanomaterials in the environment” by 2012.  The final White Paper does not include a number of the more specific recommendations offered as part of the peer review, however.  For example, the White Paper does not incorporate the suggestion that EPA use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) and other relevant statutes to call in data on use, production, releases, toxicity and other information from manufacturers and producers of nanomaterials.

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To view the final February 15, 2007 Nanotechnology White Paper, please click here.

To view the April 2006 Summary Report of the Peer Review Workshop, please click here.

To view Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.’s February 14, 2006 report on the external review draft of the White Paper, please click here.

For more information, please contact Cindi Lewis (202-789-6018, clewis@bdlaw.com), or Alan Sachs (410-230-1345, asachs@bdlaw.com).

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