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EPA Examines Nanomaterial Risks

The EPA and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission 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 treatment products used on wood for decks and fences.

The emerging field of nanotechnology has led to what the bodies describe as “substantial advances in energy, medicine, electronics, and clean technologies.” The field relies on using materials at the nanoscale level, about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Because of the unique properties of these materials, it is important to identify methods for manufacturers and other companies to ensure that such products do not harm people or the environment, the organizations say.

The research is part of a larger international effort that focuses on identifying, characterizing and quantifying the origins of nanomaterials, studying biological processes affected by nanomaterials, and determining how the materials interact with complex systems in the human body and the environment.

The EPA and CPSC are also aiming to involve the nanomaterials industry to develop sustainable manufacturing processes, and hope to share knowledge through online applications that allow for rapid feedback and accelerated research progress.

In November 2011, James G. Votaw, counsel at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, wrote a column for Environmental Leader detailing regulatory definitions of nanomaterials. To read the column click here.

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