EPA's Voluntary Program for Nanomaterials Still Too Little, Too Late
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sharyn Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-572-3396
Sean Crowley, email@example.com, 202-572-3331
(Washington, DC – January 28, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) long-awaited voluntary reporting program for engineered nanomaterials will not deliver critically needed information and serves only to postpone key decisions on how best to mitigate nanotechnology’s potential risks to human health and the environment, according to Environmental Defense. The group harshly criticized the EPA’s new Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, which is described in a notice published in today’s Federal Register.
- Despite inclusion of a six-month “target” date by which EPA “encourages” participants to submit already available information, the basic program will actually run for two years before EPA decides what to do next – which EPA indicates may be only a further extension of the voluntary program. Environmental Defense considers six months to be more than ample for submission of already available information, and believes that EPA’s approach serves only to invite delay on the part of potential participants and to put off its determination of the needed next steps.
- EPA also apparently intends to defer any decision as to whether even to initiate development of mandatory reporting rules until the initial program has run its course. Simultaneous development of such rules as a “backstop” for the voluntary program was recommended by EPA’s federal advisory committee more than two years ago.
- For each nanomaterial enrolled in the program, EPA will not require participants to:
- submit all of the information they have for each of the information elements specified by EPA; or
- identify – and justify – cases where they possess requested information but opt not to submit it; or
- indicate where they do not possess the requested information.
- These features invite partial or selective reporting and also mean that EPA will not know the actual extent of information that is either available to companies or not known to them.
- EPA apparently intends to initiate the in-depth program only after reviewing the results of the basic program’s first phase, leading to further delays in developing essential data on nanomaterial hazards and exposures.
- EPA helpfully clarifies that it will not exempt any participant in the voluntary program from having to comply with requirements applicable to producers of engineered nanomaterials under the Toxic Substances Control Act. However, EPA appears to be adopting an unacceptably lax approach to exercising its statutory authorities or enforcing these requirements:
- EPA states that where submitted information provides evidence of risk, EPA “may work with the participant to determine possible actions” it could take.
- If EPA finds that a participant should have but did not comply with requirements to notify EPA prior to manufacture of a new nanomaterial, EPA will merely “inform the participant of that situation.”