EPA to regulate a form of nanotechnology


Associated Press and KOMO TV 4 News Seattle
Story Published: Nov 23, 2006 at 8:44 AM PST
Story Updated: Nov 23, 2006 at 1:04 PM PST

WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumer products using extremely small particles of
silver to kill germs will need Environmental Protection Agency approval,
part of the government's first move to regulate the burgeoning
nanotechnology industry.

The EPA said Wednesday it was changing federal policy to require that
manufacturers provide scientific evidence that their use of nanosilver
won't harm waterways or public health.

Environmentalists and others are concerned that after the material is
discarded and enters the environment, it may be killing helpful
bacteria and aquatic organisms or even pose a risk to humans.

Nanosilver is used to kill germs in shoe liners, food-storage
containers, air fresheners, washing machines and other products.

Silver is among the most common type of nanomaterials marketed to
consumers, of which more than 200 now exist, according to the Project on Emerging
Nanotechnologies, which is funded by the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

But the EPA doesn't plan to oversee most nanomaterials, which can be as
small as one-millionth the width of a head of a pin. The Washington Post
reported the EPA's decision in Thursday editions. The Washington-based
Daily Environment Report published the first story on the decision Tuesday.

The aim of nanotechnology, in the commercial world, is to develop new
products and materials by changing or creating materials at the atomic
and molecular level. But much of the impacts from those developments remains
unknown, particularly with regard to possible environmental and health

The Food and Drug Administration also is considering whether to regulate
nanotech products.

EPA officials decided a year ago that a major pesticide law, the Federal
Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, should not apply to washing
machines because they were considered devices.

But after re-examining its decision and regulations, agency officials
reversed course and decided "that the release of silver ions in the
washing machines is a pesticide, because it is a substance released into the
laundry for the purpose of killing pests," EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said
in an interview with The Associated Press.

"This is now being considered a pesticide," Wood said. "So it does have
to be regulated under FIFRA."

Michael P. Owen, Regulatory Microbiologist
U.S. FDA Pacific Regional Lab Northwest
22201 23rd Drive SE Bothell, WA 98021-4421
Phone: 425-483-4865 E-Mail: michael.owen@fda.hhs.gov