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US, EU Focus on Governing Nanomaterials

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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Chemical authorities in the U.S. and Europe are making progress on transparency initiatives regarding nanotechnology-based products, including coatings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release its final rule concerning nanoscale chemicals in 2017, reports say. Meanwhile, the European Chemicals Agency has recently signed an agreement to make information on nanomaterials publically available.

EPA Rule Expected

Eleven years in the making, the EPA told Bloomberg BNA that it plans to release a final rule that would, for the first time, collect available industry information about nanoscale materials.

NIOSH
NIOSH

Determining potential health and environmental harm from nanoscale chemicals has been the focus of numerous federal research efforts in recent years. In 2013, NIOSH recommended sharply reducing worker exposure to carbon nanotubes and nanofibers, calling them potential "cancer promoters."

The proposed rule, first released in 2015, would require those who manufacture or process or intend to manufacture or process nanoscale chemicals to report to EPA certain information, including chemical identity, production volume, manufacturing methods, and available health and safety data.

The rule would also establish definitions and a 135-day notification requirement.

According to the EPA, the proposal is not intended to conclude that nanoscale materials will cause harm to human health or the environment. Rather, the EPA would use the information to determine if any further action under the Toxic Substances Control Act, including additional information, is needed.

The rule would be the agency’s first foray in regulating nanoscale chemicals generally. The agency has “allowed hundreds of individual, new nanoengineered molecules to enter commerce,” Bloomberg reported.

Stakeholders, including chemical manufacturers and health and environmental advocates, are anxious to see the EPA’s final version, reports note.

Nanoscale chemicals are used in a variety of products, from antimicrobial and specialty paints to sports equipment and clothing.

EU to Launch Observatory

Better access to relevant and understandable information about nanomaterials for European citizens and experts is the goal behind an agreement recently signed between the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Commission.

The signing marks the “formal kick-off” for ECHA to start working on the three-phase European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EU-ON), according to the announcement.

The information sources for the observatory will include data generated by various pieces of EU legislation regulating the safe use of nanomaterials (e.g. REACH, biocides, cosmetics), from national inventories, research projects, and market studies.

In its first phase, the observatory will only collect information that is already available and not generate any new data, the ECHA said.

painting
© iStock.com / Visivasnc

Nanoscale chemicals are used in a variety of products, from antimicrobial and specialty paints to sports equipment and clothing.

“There is already quite a lot of information on nanomaterials available,” said Geert Dancet, executive director of ECHA. “The challenge has been to navigate and find information that is easily understandable and relevant for a wider audience.”

“Our goal is for EU-ON to become a trustworthy source of information that contributes to a well-balanced public debate on nanomaterials.”

The agency said it will now start to prepare the first phase, which will explain what nanomaterials are and how they are used. It will also deal with safety issues and contain links to research projects. The first phase is set to go live this summer. Later phases include search functionalities and more detailed product information.

The European Commission concluded that the observatory would be the best tool to increase transparency on nanomaterials on the EU market, the ECHA said. The result emerged after several years of discussion and analyzing different options, including a thorough impact assessment by the Commission.

An alternative option was an EU-wide registry, which would have made it mandatory for industry to notify their use of nanomaterials. The Commission considered that such a registry would be too costly for both industry and authorities.

Meanwhile, some non-governmental organizations feel the observatory is a waste of taxpayer money.

   

Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Coatings Technology; Construction chemicals; EPA; Green chemistry; Nanotechnology; Regulations

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