Prior posts have noted the wide use of nanomaterials in consumer goods, and the threat to human health that particles of such size may pose.
An example of the risk posed by nanomaterials is sunscreen. Dermal penetration of some nanomaterials into the skin can potentially pose a hazard to human health. [Prior posts have noted
that particles in this size range can breach the blood-brain "barrier."] Also, by washing sunscreen off by showering, users of materials containing nanomaterials may be unknowingly releasing nanomaterials into the water supply. Furthermore, because of titanium dioxide contaminants within the product, improper disposal of sunscreen presents a risk of harm greater than previously hypothecated. The titanium dioxide in an "empty" sunscreen bottle that is disposed in a landfill may
eventually end up leaching into waterways and being ingested by humans.
Unfortunately, a report from the EPA Office of Inspector General (EPA IG) has concluded that the EPA lacks the data or ability to manage the challenges associated with nanomaterials. According to the report, the problem begins with the lack of data from manufacturers of nanomaterials and continues with EPA's lack of formal processes to handle information and lack of communication strategy to manage all nano-related data. The result of these organizational deficiencies, the report says, is that the agency "will not be able to assure that it is effectively managing nanomaterial risks" until these internal processes are improved.
Regarding the lack of data, most companies are unwilling to voluntarily provide information. As much as 90% of industry data is labeled as confidential and therefore was not accessible to EPA. According to the EPA IG's report, only 29 companies disclosed data about their use of 123 different nanomaterials. EPA also set up a program that encouraged companies to further provide information about research, development, and use of nanomaterials. However, only four companies participated.
In prior reports the EPA IG has noted that EPA has an action plan that is moving forward. The major question, of course, is will it be effective.
The EPA IG report can be found at
One component of the
Information on the over 1,000+ manufacturer identified products using nanomaterials can be found at http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/.