U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- A type of nanotechnology used in a wide range
of consumer products to kill germs will be regulated by the
Environmental Protection Agency as part of a change in federal
The EPA said its decision will require manufacturers that use
bacteria-killing particles of silver to provide scientific evidence
they won't harm waterways or public health.
Environmentalists and others are concerned that nanosilver may be
killing helpful bacteria and aquatic organisms as it enters the
environment when discarded and may 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.
Most nanomaterials, some as small as one-millionth the width of a
head of a pin, will not fall under EPA oversight, but the decision to
regulate nanoparticles of silver is the first move by the government
to regulate a part of the nanotechnology industry.
Nanotechnology aims to develop new materials and products by
creating or changing materials at the atomic and molecular level. It
is still so new a field, however, that its impact is largely
underdetermined. Only last December, the EPA issued its first
official report on the subject, a road map for potential regulation
that raised questions about gaps in scientific knowledge, the risk
management and potential effects of the new technologies.
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.
EPA officials decided a year ago that washing machines were not
subject to a major pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide
and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, because they were considered devices.
But the agency reconsidered its decision after re-examining the
regulations, deciding instead "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."
The Food and Drug Administration also is considering whether to
regulate nanotech products.
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