Environmental Law Inst and Wilson Center Report on Disposal of Nano-Products
- NanoWaste Needs Attention of EPA, Industry and Investors
Better toxicity data and private-sector outreach strategy required to
manage potential risks
WASHINGTON, DC The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must make
key decisions about how to apply the two major end-of-life statutes to
nanotechnology waste in order to ensure adequate oversight for these
technologies, concludes a new report from the Wilson Center's
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. However, the report notes that the
Agency lacks much of the data on human health and eco-toxicity that form
the basis for such determinations, creating some tough challenges ahead
in EPA's decision-making process.
In addition, firms that manufacture nanomaterials, investors, and
insurers should consider the new kinds of liabilities and environmental
risks that may emerge as a result of the release and disposal of waste
nanomaterials into the environment. The report, Where Does the Nano Go?
End-of Life Regulation of Nanotechnologies, written by environmental law
experts Linda Breggin and John Pendergrass of the Environmental Law
Institute, was commissioned by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies,
an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The report is available online at:
www.nanotechproject.org <http://www.nanotechproject.org/> /.
The report provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of two key
EPA-administered laws that regulate the end-of-life management
strategies for nanotechnology materials and products. These are the
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also
known as the Superfund statute.
According to the report, companies must recognize that as a result of
CERCLA, RCRA and other environmental statutes, the environmental due
diligence that accompanies many commercial transactions and securities
offerings should include an examination of the handling and disposal of
nanomaterials. Insurers also need to "take into account the
potential for CERCLA and RCRA liability arising from releases or
disposal of waste nanomaterials and products in drafting new insurance
policies, interpreting existing policies, and planning for future
potential liabilities." Central to all risk management efforts is
the need for the EPA to "conduct outreach and education to the
private sector, particularly to small companies and start-ups, about how
RCRA and CERCLA could apply to nanomaterials."
"Today, with hundreds of nanotechnology products already on the
market, one of the questions in greatest need of attention is how
various forms of nanomaterials will be disposed of and treated at the
end of their use. They may find their way into landfills or
incinerators, and, eventually, into the air, soil, or water. When we
throw something away, there really is no `away,' and this report
takes a crucial step forward in analyzing how such concerns can be
addressed within the current legal framework," said David Rejeski,
director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
Leslie Carothers, president of the Environmental Law Institute, noted at
the release of the report that, "the end-of-life regulation of
nanotechnology is a topic that must be addressed now, before the EPA,
other agencies, and the business community are forced to respond to
uncertainties in the law and its interpretation without any guidance.
Moreover, we must take a lifecycle approach to managing the potential
risks posed by engineered nanomaterials which takes into account the
full range of uses, from production, to use, to disposal. We do not want
a nanowaste problem to be a legacy of this technology."
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and
manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is
one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers
wide. More than $30 billion in products incorporating nanotechnology
were sold globally in 2005. By 2014, Lux Research estimates this figure
will grow to $2.6 trillion.
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew
Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business,
government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and
environmental implications of nanotechnology. For more information about
the project, log on to www.nanotechproject.org.
The Pew Charitable Trusts (www.pewtrusts.org <http://www.pewtrusts.org/>
) is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most
challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to
improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. We
partner with a diverse range of donors, public and private organizations
and concerned citizens who share our commitment to fact-based solutions
and goal-driven investments to improve society.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living,
national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968
and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and
maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a
nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and
engaged in the study of national and international affairs.
The Environmental Law Institute® is an independent, non-profit
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