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July 2006 Symposium on Nanotechnology and the Environment: Waste Management of Nanomaterials: Highlights, Question and Answer Session

July 13, 9:00-10:00 AM

Dr. Lou Theodore, Manhattan College Department of Chemical Engineering Riverdale, NY


Nanoscale particles have unique properties, which lead to infinite possible uses. Quality control is an issue in the development of nanoparticles because of the unique chemical and physical properties of particles (of the same chemical composition) of different size.

Nanoparticle emissions from incineration may have environmental effects. Incineration can be kept at a high level of efficiency -- it depends on what control devices are used. Baghouses can be especially effective. The diffusion properties of small particles can be exploited in this context.

There are two necessary elements of hazard assessment: (1) probability; and (2) consequences. From this information, one can estimate risk.

Assessment of health risks to workers would fall under EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Hazard risks would fall under OSHA. Risks to civilians will fall under the domain of EPA. There are no existing regulations. A cost-benefit analysis is needed for any new regulation.

Professionals are obligated to do everything in their power to prevent health and hazard problems. The obligation is on the regulator to gather as much data as possible; EPA should try to learn as much as possible about nanotechnology. However, it should not impose regulations/restraints on industrial development. Companies need to address potential liability for all products. A non-regulatory procedure should be implemented.

EPA has a vehicle in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for evaluating new chemical substances. The question is, “what is a new chemical substance?” How do we handle all of the new substances? There are so many differences possible based on size, charge, method of manufacture, etc.

Question-and-Answer Session

When asked about new regulations, Dr. Theodore said that chemical engineers, physicists, someone from American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), etc. should be consulted regarding what regulations should be in place. EPA will have to develop models that will describe the whole gamut of properties. The number of chemicals is going to complicate regulations. A commenter notes that one problem with TSCA is the issue of confidential business information (CBI) (e.g., a way to share information, yet still maintain confidentiality to protect competitive advantage). Regarding TSCA CBI, companies provide information about structure, but they are not obligated to say whether the material is nano-sized. Dr. Theodore indicated that EPA can change its interpretation of the (TSCA) rule.

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