Getting the good stuff and avoiding the bad: How is EPA regulating industrial nanoscale materials to achieve environmental benefits?
(US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) regulates the manufacture and use of industrial chemicals to control potential unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, while also promoting new technologies that have the potential to address environmental challenges. Nanoscale materials are a technological platform to achieve these benefits, provided the implications are appropriately managed. However, identifying the implications and avoiding additional unintended consequences is challenging, because many of the models that have served to identify concerns in previous decades of chemicals management no longer hold for nanoscale materials. At the same time, there are tangible environmental benefits to be realized. Hence, maximizing the benefits while avoiding the down sides is tricky at best, and requires judicious choices to utilize the old models, while, where necessary, developing new ones. Central to achieving this balance is an approach that measures the implications and benefits of nanoscale materials throughout their life cycles and institutes policies to foster continuous improvements. To those ends, the Agency has multiple interacting initiatives and programs on nanotechnology to coordinate research, develop testing, collect data, and evaluate results. By considering the overall picture, the Agency is able to prioritize filling data gaps and developing new technologies. Specific case studies will examine how these different programs interact, how the long-term foundations of economic and environmental sustainability of nanotechnology are being achieved, and where future opportunities may lay.