EPA needs to act now to face nanotech risks, says report

  • Washington (DC) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to step up to the plate and start making changes for the 21st century in order to keep the environment clean, urges a new report from former agency assistant administrator J. Clarence Davies.

    Davies calls the emergence of nanotechnology and related nano materials "the next industrial revolution," and says the EPA does not have adequate regulations and benchmarks to make sure the health and environment of the United States remains stable.

    Fellow advocate David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Wilson Center, says the agency needs to invest in research of the technology to see exactly what possible threats it poses.  He quoted the House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Technology as stating, "Nanotechnology is an area of research that could add billions of dollars to the U.S. economy, but that won't happen if it is shrouded in uncertainty about its (environmental, health and safety) consequences."

    Davies says the EPA needs to revise its regulatory framework in the areas of science, program integration, personnel, international activities, and program evaluation, and specifically called out the Toxic Substances Control Act, saying it needed reform for nanotechnology.  He outlined the procedures he'd like to see take place in a list of 25 steps.

    The Nanotech Project, which published Davies's report, says that nanotechnology is used in nearly 500 "everyday products", including clothing, cosmetics, and food/beverage containers.  The group also calls for "green nanotechnology", which uses the same material for things like solar panels.

    It has also been used to create significant advancements in medical technology, already in basic applications for treatment of Diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, and spinal cord injuries.  Davies, however, says that it's still unclear what the impact from emissions and byproducts from many nanotechnology applications could be.