On November 16, 2006, the American Bar Association held their second of eight teleconferences concerning the regulation of nanomaterials. The teleconference, moderated by Lynn L. Bergeson, entitled Nanotechnology: What You Need to Know on the Law, Regulation, and Science Policy Front , consisted of a three member panel, representing three different regulatory perspectives. The panel members were: Jennifer Sass, Ph.D., Natural Resources Defense Council, Jim Alwood, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and William P. Gulledge, American Chemistry Council.
The three panelists discussed their views on regulation of nanomaterials. All agreed that more information is needed before firm policy can be developed and that additional funding, especially in the area of health and safety research, is also needed. Of particular note, Mr. Alwood noted that the EPA is focusing nanomaterials regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) when those materials exhibit "unique properties" from those chemicals already appearing on the TSCA Chemical Inventory. Mr. Alwood explained that a difference in the sizes of chemicals is not new to TSCA, and that to track with the National Nanotechnology Initiative definition of "nanotechnology," nanomaterials will likely have to display unique behavioral characteristics to warrant a repeated entry on the TSCA Chemical Inventory. Mr. Alwood also referenced the Stewardship Program that EPA is developing, and referred listeners to the letter that was released by EPA on October 18, 2006 requesting the voluntary submission of nanotechnology research data to supplement EPA’s research efforts concerning TSCA regulation. That letter is available at http://epa.gov/oppt/nano/nano-letter.pdf
Next, Dr. Sass addressed the health and safety concerns raised by the manufacture of nanomaterials. She was particularly concerned with the toxicological impacts nanomaterials may have when introduced into biological systems. She believes more information is needed to properly address the risks posed by nanomaterials, and that research budgets should be increased accordingly. She is particularly concerned over the inhalation dangers posed by nanomaterials, and cited to several laboratory experiments providing epidemiological data on health impacts.
Finally, Mr. Gulledge presented the manufacturer’s perspective on nanotechnology, and tended to agree with the other panelists concerning data gathering and funding issues. Of note, Mr. Gulledge pointed to recently released survey results presented by the International Council of Nanotechnology at Rice University. Those survey results, available at, icon.rice.edu/projects.cfm, outline the findings from an international survey conducted to determine current environmental, health, and safety, and stewardship efforts being made by manufacturers. Mr. Gulledge also provided a brief overview of the international efforts being made by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, www.oecd.org/department/0,2688,en_2649_37015404_1_1_1_1_1,00.html). That organization, in which the United States is an active participant, is taking an international approach to stewardship, environmental, and health concerns posed by manufactured nanomaterials.
The teleconference provided a good opportunity to hear basic information concerning current and potential research and regulatory activities being pursued by different organizations. The panelists largely agreed on several topics including the need for additional research funding and the authority given to EPA to regulate nanomaterials within current statutory framework. As these teleconferences continue, further updates will be posted here.