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Posted: June 1, 2009
Government agencies are stepping up efforts to gather data on nanomaterials
(Nanowerk News) Industry Week is runing an article on how government agencies, concerned about potential health and environmental risks, are stepping up efforts to gather data on nanomaterials.
"The U.S. government's voluntary program to collect data from manufacturers working with nanoscale materials has attracted a limited response so far, according to an interim report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year. But the era of voluntary reporting may be drawing to a close as calls for mandatory risk assessment of these materials grow.
California's Department of Toxic Substances Control, for example, in January sent letters to manufacturers who produce or import carbon nanotubes into the state, requiring that they provide a range of information about those materials. The manufacturers have one year to provide their responses.
In another example, Canada appears on the brink of requiring nanomaterial manufacturers to provide data. A spokesperson for Environment Canada, the Canadian government's department charged with coordinating environmental policies, says the proposed information-gathering notice will be a one-time requirement that "can include how the substance is used or managed, any existing data on physical or chemical properties, or any other information that is needed to help inform the assessment and management process." The spokesperson said the notice will target companies or institutions that made or imported more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterial during the 2008 calendar year.
By the end of 2008, some 29 companies and trade associations had voluntarily provided information on 123 nanomaterials requested by the EPA under its Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP). An additional seven companies had committed to participate, according to an interim report on the program issued in January. The two-year program continues until January 2010.
Based on the interim results, the EPA termed the NMSP "successful." However, Lux Research points out that the program had collected data on just 5% of the more than 2,000 types of existing nanomaterials. The firm suggests that a lack of greater participation may be a result of simply not enough incentive for manufacturers to voluntarily participate. Concerns over confidentiality may also play a part. That said, "a lot of companies do work closely, very closely, with officials at the EPA," whether or not they participate in the NMSP, points out David Hwang, Lux research associate."