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July 2006 Symposium on Nanotechnology and the Environment: Session 7: Panel Discussion

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July 13, 1:00-3:00PM

Panel Discussion (PDF) (6pp, 251KB)
A panel composed of the conference speakers and EPA personnel held a discussion during which they addressed the charged questions 1) Based on what is currently known in the nanotechnology area, what can be inferred about the properties and characteristics of a nanotechnology waste? and 2) How can nanotechnology impact current waste management practices for wastes?

Mr. Jim Willis, US EPA, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT)

Presentation Slides (PDF) (4 pp, 281K)


Frequently there are public concerns voiced over new technologies, and EPA needs to appropriately balance risks and benefits and communicate to stakeholders in an open and transparent way. EPA needs to continue to implement Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to apply sound science to assess and, where appropriate, manage possible risks of nanomaterials. TSCA authorities are adequate for nanomaterials that are industrial chemicals. EPA is reviewing new chemical nanomaterials. EPA held a public meeting last year to seek the views of stakeholders on approaches for oversight over nanomaterials. The Agency sought the views of a federal advisory committee activity (FACA) advisory body, the National Pollution Prevention and Toxics Advisory Committee (NPPTAC), and has established an Agency-wide workgroup to consider the Agency's next course of action. EPA is also working to promote pollution prevention in the nanotechnology field and a conference on this is planned for the winter.

The Science Policy Council (SPC) established a workgroup to develop a white paper on EPA science and research needs for nanotechnology. All program offices and five regional offices were involved. Publication is expected in the fall. The white paper recommended areas for further research and detailed clear Agency needs in the area of nanotechnology.

Broader cooperation both Agency-wide and government-wide was encouraged. None of the offices alone has the internal resources and infrastructure needed to deal with all aspects of nanotechnology. The US agencies cooperate under the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and countries cooperate internationally through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials. There is also the need to cooperate within the Agency, for example under the workgroup recommended in the SPC white paper.

Ms. Marti Otto, US EPA, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI)

Presentation Slides (PDF) (3 pp, 240K)


Nanotechnology has promising applications for site remediation. Research indicates that nanoscale zero valent iron (nZVI) may be able to address contamination by chlorinated hydrocarbons, metals, and pesticides. There are approximately 20 to 25 sites were nZVI has been field-tested or is being considered. A workshop on nanotechnology for site remediation was held in October 2005. The latest research results were discussed, and breakout sessions were held to discuss issues and develop recommendations.

OSWER's Superfund office is compiling information on field tests of nZVI and is also preparing a factsheet for project managers on the use of nanotechnology for site remediation. The Emergency Response Team is evaluating personal protective equipment and other aspects of emergency response in case cleanup of a nanomaterial spill is required.

Dr. Nora Savage, US EPA, Office of Research and Development (ORD), National Center for Environmental Research/Environmental Engineering Research Division

Presentation Slides (PDF) (6 pp, 483K)


Dr. Savage indicated that the Agency has many reasons to be interested in nanotechnology (e.g., opportunities, responsibilities, and potential hazards). Accordingly, the Agency has been a member of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) since 2001. The NNI does not provide funds to participating agencies; nanotechnology funds come from money allocated by the various agencies internally. However, the agencies investing larger amounts in nanotechnology provide funds to support the activities of the NNI.

The NNI has established several working groups including the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications Working Group (NEHI WG). This workgroup will release a report titled "Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials" with assistance of several representatives from the Agency. Another working grop is the Nanotechnology Public Engagement Group (NPEG) which seeks to improve communication and dialogue with the public on nanotechnology.

Dr. Savage is currently leading the effort to develop a nanotechnology research plan for ORD. The goal of this plan is to develop a research strategy that will best meet the regulatory and policy needs of the Agency in nanotechnology. ORD issues Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts in nanotechnology, and participates on various national and international consortia, symposia, and workshops on topics ranging from nomenclatureto research strategies. ORD has also initiated an internal EPA-wide group, called NanoMeeters, that meets monthly to inform Agency personnel of recent events and news in nanotechnology. Members of this group are given a link to an intra-EPA database on nanotechnology that provides articles, presentations, information on upcoming events, etc.

Dr. Barbara Karn, US EPA, Office of Research and Development (ORD), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Emerging Nanotechnologies Project

Presentation Slides (PDF) (4pp, 251KB)


EPA began a research grants program in nanotechnology applications for the environment in January, 2001 to help meet EPA's mission through this new technology.

ORD began to spread the word within the Agency, and encourage EPA offices to consider how nanotechnology may affect EPA's mission.

EPA must ensure that the environment and human health are taken into consideration in nanotechnology-related government research programs.

EPA has been able to get environmental health and safety issues discussed in National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

There is a joint research program on the implications of nanotechnology with the National Science Foundation, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). There are plans to include the European Commission next year.

Global Issues in Nanotechnology (GIN) is working group of Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET). There have been recent discussions about issues of keeping trade secrets safe.

In addition to looking at nanoproducts themselves, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) needs to look at what products nanotechnology may be replacing. Large volumes of obsolete materials being replaced could end up in waste streams.

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