Since May 12, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required the electronic reporting and recordkeeping of certain chemical substances manufactured and processed at nanoscale. Goldberg Segalla partner Thomas P. Bernier, Chair of the firm’s Nanotechnology Practice Group, discusses the implications of these requirements in an article in The Newsletter of the Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (DRI). Putting the regulations in context in the growing field of nanoscale materials and technologies, Tom explains which manufacturers, processors, and other professionals this rule affects, what types of substances fall under the regulations, general exemptions, and other details.
“There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing the difference that exists between some chemical substances manufactured at the nanoscale and their non-nanoscale counterparts,” Tom writes. “Nanoscale materials may have different or enhanced properties” — for example, carbon at the nanoscale is stronger than steel, aluminum is explosive, and silver takes on biological properties — and this leaves open questions, “such as whether the material in the smaller form may present hazards to humans and the environment.”
“The EPA makes a point of explaining that the new rule is not intended to conclude that nanoscale materials as a class or specific uses of nanoscale materials are likely to cause harm to people or the environment,” Tom explains. The agency believes the regulatory approach “will aid in ensuring that nanoscale materials are manufactured and used in a manner that protects against unreasonable risks to human health and the environment.”
Manufacturers and other professionals in industries that use nanoscale materials can expect increased government attention to the growing field and to research surrounding it. “This new rule signals a definitive move in the direction of increased levels of mandatory disclosure with an eye toward increasing governmental oversight, management, and control of this burgeoning technology,” Tom writes. “As production of nanoscale chemicals and other materials continues to outpace the scientific testing of these products, the federal government appears to be stepping up its efforts to ‘get its arms around’ the enormity of any serious problem before it develops.”