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Posted: February 23, 2007
Industry should become familiar with EPA white paper on nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's white paper on nanotechnology (pdf download, 2.6 MB) offers the industry and a chief regulatory agency a chance to work together to define ground rules for future development, said Dave Hobson, chief science officer for nanoTox(TM), a Houston-based testing firm.
Hobson described the document as "forward looking" in its recommendations.
"The white paper shows a proactive and positive position on furthering the development of the industry and protecting the environment," said Hobson. "The EPA appears to realize that it cannot do this job alone, without industry involvement."
"It's crucial that EPA's approach to implementation of many of the recommendations in the white paper involves industrial input and perspectives to be most successful."
Hobson said industry officials should become familiar with the EPA document, and be prepared to work pro-actively and collaboratively with the Agency, particularly in areas where data for risk assessments is lacking.
The Nanotechnology White Paper provides:
– A basic description of nanotechnology
– Information on why EPA is interested in nanotechnology
– Potential environmental benefits of nanotechnology
– Risk assessment issues specific to nanotechnology
– A discussion of responsible development of nanotechnology and the EPA's statutory mandates
– An extensive review of research needs for both environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology
– Staff recommendations for addressing science issues and research needs, and includes prioritized research needs within most risk assessment topic areas (e.g., human health effects research, fate and transport research)
– An appendix that contains a description of EPA's framework for nanotechnology research, which outlines how EPA will strategically focus its own research program to provide key information on potential environmental impacts from human or ecological exposure to nanomaterials in a manner that complements other federal, academic, and private-sector research activities.
– Collaboration with other researchers is a major focus of the paper.
The document reflects government interest in the science of nanotechnology, and the materials that are used, which are measured almost at the atomic level, in billionths of a meter.
The EPA assessment has been two years in the making, but Hobson pointed out that it doesn't yet reflect any actual EPA policy directives or action.
"They'll need to make some administrative decisions and obtain the necessary funding from Congress to begin implementing these recommendations," Hobson said. "And a company like nanoTox with its mission on nanotoxicology and nanomaterials testing, may be able to help focus industry resources toward supporting Agency goals."
Hobson holds a Ph.D. in toxicology and is often called upon to assist both industry and government agencies with environmental risk assessments of various materials as well as cleanup and remediation projects and the design of toxicology studies.
"I'd be concerned if anyone thought that this white paper represents a 'go' signal, to fast-track product development with environmentally uncharacterized nanotechnologies, in advance of eventual EPA policy-making."
Hobson described such a move as "environmentally irresponsible", and could result in costly problems in terms of litigation, if "significant harm is done."