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June 1st, 2009
The U.S. government's voluntary program to collect data from manufacturers working with nanoscale materials has attracted a limited response so far, according to an interim report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year. But the era of voluntary reporting may be drawing to a close as calls for mandatory risk assessment of these materials grow.
California's Department of Toxic Substances Control, for example, in January sent letters to manufacturers who produce or import carbon nanotubes into the state, requiring that they provide a range of information about those materials. The manufacturers have one year to provide their responses.
In another example, Canada appears on the brink of requiring nanomaterial manufacturers to provide data. A spokesperson for Environment Canada, the Canadian government's department charged with coordinating environmental policies, says the proposed information-gathering notice will be a one-time requirement that "can include how the substance is used or managed, any existing data on physical or chemical properties, or any other information that is needed to help inform the assessment and management process." The spokesperson said the notice will target companies or institutions that made or imported more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterial during the 2008 calendar year.
Cleveland area-based Nanofilm provided data to the NMSP on its commercially available nano-scale materials. "In our view, there's nothing to fear so there's no reason not to provide the data," says Nanofilm's Scott Rickert, co-founder of the 25-year-old firm. "My biggest concern is if I didn't report and then I go out and try to sell something, expand my market with my partners . . . those big companies are going to want assurance that what we provide them is safe. So I have every incentive to cooperate with regulatory bodies. Because I'll have no customers if I don't."
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