A UC Berkeley student’s recent entry into the university’s Science, Technology and Engineering White Paper Competition offers another interesting perspective on the City’s nanomaterials ordinance.  The paper’s author believes that the current open ended question format used in the City’s Disclosure Guidelines is unlikely to produce data useful "in linking specific nanomaterials to the factors that cause toxicity or to adequate management and containment practices."  Accordingly, the author recommends the City abandon its current question format in favor of a simpler closed question style because "laboratories are more accustomed to reporting chemicals using a closed, questionnaire style document."  Beyond questioning the format used by the City, the author also takes the position that:

The type of information required by the ordinance fails to capture some key characteristics of nanomaterials considered to be important for the potential toxicity.  Among other things, the ordinance asks for the ‘average and maximum daily amount pf the materials stored (in metric units), chemical form (solid, liquid), particle dimensions and approximate mass’.  The ordinance does not ask for critical data on surface to mass ratio, surface coatings, or surface characteristics and reactivity potential, among other relevant factors for nano-toxicity.  While the information collected by the ordinance fits well with the needs of hazardous materials business plan, the debate on how to regulate nanomaterials would benefit more from the development of a reporting form that begins to get at the key factors of nano-toxicity.

Finally, while the author questions the format and scope of the City’s Disclosure Guidelines, she takes the position that the ordinance is a step in the right direction and should be used to inform other municipalities considering how to best deal with potential nano-related EHS risks.

J. Barandiaran, "Towards a Standardized nanomaterials Framework.  The City of Berkeley Ordinance on Nanotechnology: Steps towards a standardized nanomaterials classification framework," Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, Science Technology and Engineering White Paper Competition, April 18, 2007.