EPA watchdog says the agency needs to manage nanomaterial risks more effectively

(Nanowerk News) In a just released report ("EPA Needs to Manage Nanomaterial Risks More Effectively"; pdf), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General finds that EPA does not currently have sufficient information or processes to effectively manage the human health and environmental risks of nanomaterials.
EPA has the statutory authority to regulate nanomaterials but currently lacks the environmental and human health exposure and toxicological data to do so effectively. The Agency proposed a policy under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to identify new pesticides being registered with nanoscale materials. After minimal industry participation in a voluntary data collection program, the Agency has proposed mandatory reporting rules for nanomaterials under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and is also developing proposed rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
However, even if mandatory reporting rules are approved, the effectiveness of EPA's management of nanomaterials remains in question for a number of reasons:
  • Program offices do not have a formal process to coordinate the dissemination and utilization of the potentially mandated information.
  • EPA is not communicating an overall message to external stakeholders regarding policy changes and the risks of nanomaterials.
  • EPA proposes to regulate nanomaterials as chemicals and its success in managing nanomaterials will be linked to the existing limitations of those applicable statutes.
  • EPA's management of nanomaterials is limited by lack of risk information and reliance on industry-submitted data.
  • These issues present significant barriers to effective nanomaterial management when combined with existing resource challenges. If EPA does not improve its internal processes and develop a clear and consistent stakeholder communication process, the Agency will not be able to assure that it is effectively managing nanomaterial risks.
    The Office of Inspector General recommends that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention develop a process to assure effective dissemination and coordination of nanomaterial information across relevant program offices. The Agency agreed with this recommendation and provided a corrective action plan with milestone dates. This recommendation is open with agreed-to actions pending.
    Source: EPA