EPA Publishes Road Map for Future Development of Nanotech

 
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2005 10:56 am    Post subject: EPA Publishes Road Map for Future Development of Nanotech Reply with quote

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Publishes Road Map for the Future Development of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level to develop new or enhanced materials and products.

In December 2004, EPA’s Science Policy Council created a cross-Agency workgroup to identify and describe the issues EPA must address to ensure protection of human health and the environment as this new technology is developed. The draft white paper on nanotechnology is the product of the workgroup.

The draft white paper describes the technology, and provides a discussion of the potential environmental benefits of nanotechnology and its applications that can foster sustainable use of resources. Risk management issues and the Agency’s statutory mandates are outlined, followed by an extensive discussion of risk assessment issues. The paper identifies research needs for both environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology and concludes with recommendations on next steps for addressing science policy issues and research needs. Supplemental information is provided in a number of appendices.

The Agency will use the white paper to address research needs and risk assessment issues concerning nanotechnology. The draft white paper will undergo independent expert review, and any public comments will be submitted to the external review panel for consideration. A process for gathering public comment will be established by the end of December 2005. If you wish to submit comments, please return to this site at that time. Following the expert review, EPA will issue a final white paper on nanotechnology in early 2006.

Executive Summary of the External Review Draft

Nanotechnology has the potential to change and improve many sectors of American industry, from consumer products to health care to transportation, energy and agriculture. In addition to these societal benefits, nanotechnology presents new opportunities to improve how we measure, monitor, manage, and minimize contaminants in the environment, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, or “the Agency”) will continue to support and advance these opportunities. However, as the applications of nanotechnology continue to expand, EPA also has the obligation and mandate to protect human health and safeguard the environment by better understanding and addressing potential risks from exposure to materials containing nano-scale particles (commonly known as “nanomaterials”).

For the past five years, EPA has played a leading role in funding research and setting research directions to develop environmental applications for, and understand the potential human health and environmental implications of, nanotechnology. That research has already borne fruit, particularly in the use of nanomaterials for environmental clean-up and in understanding the disposition of nanomaterials in biological systems. Some environmental technologies using nanotechnology have progressed beyond the research stage. Also, a number of specific nanomaterials have come to the Agency’s attention, whether as novel products intended to promote the reduction or remediation of pollution or because they have entered one of EPA’s regulatory review processes. For EPA, nanotechnology has evolved from a futuristic idea to watch, to a current issue to address.

In December 2004, EPA’s Science Policy Council created a cross-Agency workgroup charged with describing the issues EPA must address to ensure that society accrues the important benefits to environmental protection that nanotechnology may offer, as well as to better understand any potential risks from exposure to nanomaterials in the environment. This paper is the product of that workgroup.

The paper begins with an introduction that describes what nanotechnology is, why EPA is interested in it, and what opportunities and challenges exist regarding nanotechnology and the environment. It then moves to a discussion of the potential environmental benefits of nanotechnology, describing environmental technologies as well as other applications that can foster sustainable use of resources. Following is a brief section on risk management and the Agency’s statutory mandates, which sets the stage for a discussion of risk assessment issues specific to nanotechnology. The paper then provides an extensive review of research needs for both environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology. To help EPA focus on priorities for the near term, the paper concludes with recommendations on next steps for addressing science policy issues and research needs. Supplemental information is provided in a number of appendices.

Key recommendations include:

Pollution Prevention, Stewardship, and Sustainability
The Agency should engage resources and expertise to encourage, support, and develop approaches that promote pollution prevention, sustainable resource use, and good product stewardship in the production and use of nanomaterials. Additionally, the Agency should draw on new, “next generation” nanotechnologies to identify ways to support environmentally beneficial approaches such as green energy and green manufacturing.

Research
The Agency should undertake, collaborate on, and catalyze research to better understand and apply information regarding nanomaterials:

Chemical identification and characterization,
Environmental fate,
Environmental detection and analysis,
Potential releases and human exposures,
Human health effects assessment,
Ecological effects assessment, and
Environmental technology applications.
Risk Assessment

The Agency should conduct case studies on several engineered or manufactured nanomaterials. Such case studies would be useful in identifying unique considerations for conducting risk assessments on nanomaterials. The case studies would also aid in identifying information gaps, which would help map areas of research to inform the risk assessment process.

Collaboration and Leadership
The Agency should continue and expand its collaborations regarding nanomaterial applications and potential human health and environmental implications.

Cross-Agency Workgroup
The Agency should convene a standing cross-Agency group to foster information sharing on nanotechnology science and policy issues.

Training
The Agency should continue and expand its nanotechnology training activities for scientists and managers.

Nanotechnology has emerged as a growing and rapidly changing field. New generations of nanomaterials will evolve, and with them new and possibly unforeseen environmental issues. It will be crucial that the Agency’s approaches to leveraging the benefits and assessing the impacts of nanomaterials continue to evolve in parallel with the expansion of and advances in these new technologies.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

URL: http://www.epa.gov/osa/nanotech.htm

This story was posted on 8 December 2005.
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