At today’s public meeting on EPA’s proposed Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, Charlie Auer, Director of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics indicated EPA is not currently working on a general "significant new use rule" encompassing all nanoscale materials under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as several environmental law attorneys and NGO’s have recommended in the past.

As our readers may recall, EPA recently published a paper explaining its treatment of nanoscale substances under TSCA as "new" versus "existing" chemicals. "TSCA Inventory Status of Nanoscale Substances — General Approach."  EPA indicated in this paper that it does not intend to consider nanoscale materials "new" substances for TSCA purposes just because of their diminutive size — they must have a distinct molecular identity that is not shared with any other chemical on TSCA’s existing Chemical Substance Inventory before they are considered "new."  

Beyond the paper, we noted that a significant "sibling issue" still remained undecided — whether the use of nanoscale materials constitutes a "significant new use" of an existing chemical substance which also triggers TSCA’s  premanufacturing notice and approval requirements.  Mr. Auer’s statement went a long way to addressing this issue in a preliminary fashion.

The normal factors in a SNUR consideration are:  (i) the projected volume of manufacturing and processing of a chemical substance, (ii) the extent to which a use changes the type or form of exposure of human beings or the environment to a chemical substance, (iii) the extent to which a use increases the magnitude and duration of exposure of human beings or the environment to a chemical substance, and (iv) the reasonably anticipated manner and methods of manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and disposal of a chemical substance.

Mr. Auer’s statement today effectively means EPA does not intend (at least anytime soon) to issue a broad SNUR covering all nanoscale materials based on the above-listed factors.  Rather, EPA intends to give NMSP some time to generate the data and information needed before EPA tackles SNUR issues, and then they may be addressed on a targeted basis.