Substances developed through nanotechnology research should be included in the Environmental Protection Agency's annual Toxic Release Inventory report, according to a legal analysis by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
Nanotechnology refers to manipulating the properties of materials at a tiny scale, measured in millionths of a millimeter. It holds great revolutionary promise for next-generation technology, including green technology for pollution clean-up, renewable energy and other innovations. But the health and environmental risks of nanotechnology are still largely unknown. Nanomaterials are already being used in many consumer products, including some sunblock and other personal care products, and research is underway that would bring nanomaterials into many more common products.
For that reason, more toxicological studies need to be done before nanomaterials can be included in the annual TRI, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies agrees.
"The key question is whether EPA will make any determinations about whether particular nanomaterials constitute toxic chemicals," says Linda Breggin, one the authors of the analysis and Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute.
The landmark analysis comes as over 40 environmental, consumer, labor and other groups are calling for regulation and disclosure of products containing nanomaterials, and as congressional lawmakers are considering legislation to expand reporting requirements for environmental pollutants under TRI. Berkeley, Calif., requires manufacturers to disclose known risks of nanomatericals, and Cambridge, Mass., another research hub for the emerging technology, is considering a similar law.
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