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Posted: Dec 12, 2012
Nanotechnology safety: EPA and Consumer Product Safety Commission collaborate to research health impacts of nanomaterials
(Nanowerk News) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.
“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,” said Dr. Tina Bahadori, national program director for EPA’s Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research. “This innovative research greatly improves what is known about nanomaterials and will inform the future design of more sustainable, effective nanomaterials.”
“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” said Dr. Treye Thomas, program manager for the CPSC Nanotechnology program.
EPA's collaborative research with CSPC 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
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).