- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
"Although the body of research related to nanomaterials is growing, the current understanding of the risks posed by these materials is limited," the report said. "This is because the manner in which some studies have been conducted does not allow for valid comparisons with newer studies or because there has been a greater focus on certain nanomaterials and not others. Moreover, the ability to conduct necessary research on the toxicity and risks of nanomaterials may be further hampered by the lack of tools to conduct such studies and the lack of models to predict the characteristics of nanomaterials."
The report identified currently available products in eight that already incorporate nanomaterials: automotive; defense and aerospace; electronics and computers; energy and environment; food and agriculture; housing and construction; medical and pharmaceutical; and personal care, cosmetics and other consumer products. Within each of these sectors, the report also identified a wide variety of other uses that are currently under development and are expected to be available in the future.
The extent to which nanomaterials present a risk to human health and the environment depends on a combination of the toxicity of specific nanomaterials and the route and level of exposure to these materials.
According to the report, the EPA's approach so far has consisted of agency-directed research and a voluntary data collection program. Under its existing statutory framework, the agency has regulated some nanomaterials, and plans to issue additional regulations later this year. As of this writing, these changes have not yet gone into effect; the report warns that products may be entering the market without EPA review of all available information on their potential risk.
"[The EPA] lacks the technology to monitor and characterize these materials or the statutes include volume-based regulatory thresholds that may be too high for effectively regulating the production and disposal of nanomaterials," the report concludes. The report notes other nations, including, notably, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, have started their own processes for collecting data to understand the potential risks associated with nanomaterials. California, too, has started asking companies to voluntarily submit information.
Read the report at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10549.pdf.
SOURCE: GAO Office of Public Affairs website