US environment agency criticised for lack of action on health risks
14 August 2007
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been accused of acting
"too little, too late" in taking action to protect the public and the
environment from adverse effects of nanomaterials.
At a public meeting on its proposal for a voluntary Nanoscale Materials
Stewardship Program, the EPA was urged by US organisation Environmental
Defense to act much more aggressively to protect the public and the
"Two years in the making, EPA's tepid proposals have actually set back
the clock," testified Dr Richard Denison, Senior Scientist for Environmental
Defense. "As a government response to addressing the possible downsides of
the nanotechnology revolution, it's simply 'too little, too late.'"
Denison noted that key features of the federal advisory committee's
original proposal have been stripped out.
"We supported the original proposal for a voluntary program two years ago
because it was one element of a comprehensive plan that also included
regulatory steps intended to provide a 'backstop,' and it was to be launched
and completed quickly," added Denison. "By contrast, EPA now is calling for
an open-ended program with no plan B should its voluntary plan A fall
The United Kingdom has operated a similar program for over nine months
and has attracted only seven companies to volunteer. The design and timing
of the EPA program is likely to yield similarly disappointing participation,
resulting in a very selective and skewed picture of the state of
Environmental Defense instead urged EPA to rapidly develop and implement
mandatory reporting rules to level the playing field for the nanotechnology
industry and ensure that relevant information is communicated — a step EPA
said it had initiated more than two years ago, but for which it has provided
no public indication of actual progress.
Environmental Defense also opposed EPA's decision to treat nanoscale
materials as if they are no different from their conventional counterparts.
"EPA proposes to effectively ignore the very nano-ness of nanoscale
materials," concluded Denison. "This decision is not required by precedent,
as EPA claims, and it reflects bad policy that flies in the face of common
sense. It removes the only effective means by which any government review of
the affected nanoscale materials can be assured prior to commencement of
Environmental Defense's full statement is online at
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