Meanwhile, in December, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) established a Committee on Safety Management for Nanomaterials.
In a press release, METI states that the committee will focus on risks caused by nanomaterials, and that it will study "appropriate management procedures for nanomaterials considering the actual usage and life cycles." The committee's major agenda is to classify the shapes and risks of nanomaterials in order to study appropriate management procedures for each. It plans to compile an interim report in the spring or summer of this year.
Also in December, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution that called for legislation to be drafted to protect workers from the health risks of nanomaterials in the workplace. The EP's concern is that the potential effects of new technologies and harmful susbtances on health and their risks must be assessed.
The resolution stated that nanomaterials must be covered by current European Union (EU) health and safety rules, and that legislation must be drafted to ensure that nanomaterials are covered by those European Occupational Health and Safety regulations.
Your assessment is interesting.
Aspects to be considered in classification require careful analysis.
1. Is the nano material an active or passive bio-component
Dust is micron sizable material that activates predisposition human bio-systems.
Drugs have been in the market, approved by FDA, to a specific volumetric concentration and contain aerobic nano particles, altering biosystememic tissue, organs and behavior.
Chemicals (pool chemicals, herbicides, and even car pollution 50 microns size particles) are active human bio-component a
EPA & FDA
Legislation or Guidance
Disclosure or non disclosure
2. A great number of nano materials are active components of sealed and totally enclosed systems with potential for bio-analysis.
i.e. Medical nano devices.
Concerns? It is a component quality to process validation issue.
3. A number of newly bio- nano systems are fuel producing and cell generating systems
Concerns? Less polluting biodegradable fuels ;)
Reconstructive StemCell human tissue and organs ;)
An Army of Nano-Drones ;)
From Mouse to NanoDrones - It is a real legal & ethical question and concern.
4. The sky is the limit!
I think Ozark Sage has raised a very good question: who will do the testing and various types of assessments that result in regulation? So far, it looks like the state of knowledge is still stuck at the classification stage.
Dave, I also, appreciate the clarification about nanomaterials. My comments about the EPA are due to their history of issuing edicts, however. A bad reputation is a difficult thing to lose, and while some applaude all of the EPA rules, I find that many of the assumptions appear to be built on questionable statistics, at least, on statistics that don't seem to be atributed to a recognized source.
The first step in regulation is almost always to find out who would be regulated, so as to be able to apply force to all involved parties when laws are finally passed. So it looks obvious to me that regulation is going to happen in the fairly near future, probably before much long term data has been collected. IT just seems to work that way.
On the other side, are there any examples of anything being caused by people either breathing or becoming contaminated with any nanomaterials? A detailed pathological report on any instances would be quite worthwhile. A good writer could translate it into common language from the medical jargon and allow us to know "what really did happen".
Thanks, Dave, for the clarifications about legislation and regulation and for pointing out the particle size issues and enormous size differences, in turn causing behavioral differences. And of course, the effects of those differences are mostly unknown at present.
@William K.: Obviously nanomaterials have vastly different properties than common dust particles, otherwise they wouldn't have any scientific interest or commercial value. Quantum size effects result in nanoscale materials behaving in radically different ways than bulk materials. They have different mechanical properties, electrical properties, chemical reactivity, etc. So why is it reasonable to assume that when it comes to their health effects, they behave the same as common dust?
Of course, common dust particles are far from benign themselves. Effective regulation has nearly eliminated silicosis as a cause of death in the U.S., but it continues to kill thousands of people in China every year. And silicosis is caused by micron-scale particles which can be easily stopped with a properly designed and fitted dust mask. How do you effectively filter out nanoscale particles?
At any rate, the regulations which EPA is proposing would simply require companies to report where they are using nanomaterials, and how much. They wouldn't impose any actual restrictions on the use of nanomaterials. And the only reason why EPA is even considering mandatory reporting is that not enough companies are participating in an existing voluntary program.
Requiring companies to report their nanomaterials usage might help to address the lack of information which is currently the biggest impediment to assessing and managing nanomaterials risk. The only companies which I would expect this to have a serious negative impact on would be the ones who claim to be using nanomaterials in their products and actually aren't.
Ron, I would certainly anticipate that even a total lack of understanding would prevent the regulatory agencies from creating all sorts of rules about how to handle things. It has not slwed them in the past, why should it slow them now. What evidence is there that the new nano materials are any more hazardous than dust has been for hundreds of years? Or aerosols, for that matter.
I would not anticipate that the first set of regulations will be rational at all. Nor that a lack of understanding will slow the rate of regulation.
Dave agree with your comments, Wonder, and it will be extreamly interesting, to discover WHO will wind up doing all this work especially since manufacturing processes and safety testing is still in development world wide.
Not to nit-pick excessively, but there is a big difference between legislation and regulation. Legislation is done by the legislative branch. Regulation is done by the executive branch, under authority granted to it by the legislative branch. What's being discussed in this article is regulation, not legislation. (Thanks to partisan divisions, the U.S. Congress is not very likely to pass much legislation on any subject in the next twelve months).
The Inspector General's report basically says that EPA has the authority under existing law to regulate nanomaterials, but that they don't have enough information to do so in a meaningful way.
By the way, it's interesting to read the bickering between the EPA and the Inspector General's office in the appendix. The report originally had a more scathing title.
Thanks, Dave. It's important to clarify that MEMS are definitely not being considered here. MEMS and nanometer-level tech of various kinds are often mentioned in the same breath, and that's sometimes unfortunate because it's confusing. Generally speaking, MEMS are usually quite a bit larger--often another order of magnitude--and may be made of nano-sized components.
That said, I also think it would be silly for the EPA to try to regulate all nanomaterials as chemicals, but I'm not sure that's actually what they intend. I think that's just a starting point and that all the regulatory bodies are flailing around. As Rob's comments indicate, regulators seem to have been blindsided by all this commotion. But they have to start somewhere.
As Dave points out, there's reason for concern with some nanomaterials. And I've always thought, if you introduce a new variable into any system, it's naive to work on a default assumption that there will be no effects. If the systems are individual, biological ones--like me or you--then it behooves us to know what we're doing.
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