EU logoAs various articles on this blog (Search: EU) have demonstrated over the past couple of years, the EU has been more proactive than the U.S. in targeting potential health and environmental risks posed to consumers by nanomaterials and seeking to generate and compile relevant and helpful information with an eye toward appropriate regulation.  The EU scientific panel is now calling for comments on opinions of the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) on several nanosubstances used as sunscreens in cosmetics.

The opinions posted for comment indicate what is known about these substances and point to the gaps in the studies.  For example, with regard to dermal absorption of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, SCCS states, in part: 

            “[T]here is a body of open literature on this subject. The evidence from these studies supports the conclusion that TiO2 nanoparticles are unlikely to penetrate across the skin to reach viable cells of the epidermis. . . . Studies have also shown that TiO2 nanoparticles do not penetrate the (simulated) sunburnt skin.

            - Despite the extensive database showing a general lack of TiO2 nanoparticle absorption via the dermal route, there are a few gaps in the knowledge. For example, it is not clear whether TiO2 nanoparticles will be able to penetrate through cuts and bruises, or over repeated or long term applications of a sunscreen formulation.

            - A number of studies have indicated that TiO2 nanoparticle can enter the hair follicles and sweat glands, and that they may remain there for a number of days. This is a scenarioin which TiO2 nanoparticles are likely to get and remain in a close proximity to the living cells for a length of time. A photocatalytic nanoparticle in such a situation may cause . . . potential harmful effects when exposed to sunlight. . . . [M]ore data would be needed to justify the use of those TiO2 nanoparticles in skin applications that have a considerablelevel of photocatalytic activity.”  (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety SCCS,Opinion on Titanium Dioxide (nano form), p. 97)

The document also indicates the need for study of the potential of these substances of the nano-related properties of the substances to be mutagenic or genotoxic.  (p. 97-98)

These few small examples of the more extensive information contained in the opinions gives a sense of where the SCCS’s attention is currently on nanosubstances in cosmetics, which is one of the most pervasive uses of nanosubstances in consumer use.  With study of such materials moving along in laboratories around the world, it is essential that the information be collected and evaluated to determine what risks, if any, may be presented to consumers by the nanoscale properties of the substances.  The EU is moving in the right direction.

All of the SCCS opinions are available at

http://bit.ly/hVulJJ

 

NASA stock photos

NASA stock photos

It’s a busy time for potential regulators of nanomaterials.  This post will point to some of the recent activities, in the United States and abroad.

 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Cooperative Chemical Assessment Program (CoCAP) has long been working to assess the hazards of chemicals across international lines.  OECD has now decided that CoCAP has served its purpose and must be replaced by a different organization at the end of 2014.  One reason for the change is that the activities of the EU’s REACH program and research in the United States have become the primary assessment mechanisms, rendering CoCAP’s current activities unnecessary.  The new program is still in the planning stages, but will involve the development and implementation of new methodologies.

This sounds like progress.  As this blog often has noted, nanotechnology assessment has received more attention in the international arena than in the United States, and this is another example of an international organization moving forward.

A summary of CoCAP may be accessed at:

http://www.oecd.org/env/ehs/risk-assessment/oecdcooperativechemicalsassessmentprogramme.htm

 A report of the announcement to replace CoCAP appeared in

Rick Mitchell, Multi-Nation Group to Replace Program That Weighs High-Volume Chemical Hazards, 28 Toxics L. Rep. (BNA) 707 (June 27, 2013) (by subscription)

Speaking of the EU, the European Commission is seeking suggestions on better applying the REACH assessment to nanomaterials.  The official document seeking comments states:

“Specifically, the policy initiative shall provide clearer REACH requirements for nanomaterials to ensure that industry demonstrates safe use in the registration dossiers in accordance with the aims of REACH Article 1(1) ‘to ensure a high level of protection of   human health and the environment, including the promotion of alternative methods for assessment of hazards of substance, as well as the free circulation of substances on theinternal market while enhancing competitiveness and innovation’.”

The Commission is reaching out to all interested stakeholders to provide “the best possible evidence base for its work.”

The official announcement, with information on submitting comments, is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/nanomaterials_2013_en.htm

In another demonstration of international cooperation, the United States and Canada have developed a uniform classification system for industrial nanomaterials.  The U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council’s (RCC) working group has been involved in this process since 2011 as part of a broader initiative to bring about uniformity in addressing nanotechnology.  This latest step is part of a continuing process.  This blog has previously discussed the work of the RCC here.

Here in the United States, EPA has issued its final significant new use rules (SNURs) for 17 substances, mostly constituting substances at the nanoscale, which will go into effect on August 26, 2013.  Fifteen of the seventeen SNURs are based upon TSCA section 5(e) consent orders issued by EPA and reflect the substance of the orders.  With regard to the other two SNURs, “EPA determined that one or more of the criteria of concern . . . were met.”  (Final Rule, p. 6)  In the Final Rule, EPA responded to various comments, including those directed at workplace safety.  This blog will address those comments at a later date.

The Final Rule is available at:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/06/26/2013-15032/significant-new-use-rules-on-certain-chemical-substances

nano 3The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) recently held a Stakeholder Workshop for the purpose of assessing and strategizing in anticipation of the next version of the NNI Strategic Plan, a draft of which is due in late 2013 or early 2014.  Stakeholders from industry, government, and academia attended the workshop.  Participants considered questions related to technical challenges; commercial nanotechnology; environmental, health, and safety considerations; infrastructure needs; and ethical, legal, and societal implications of nanotechnology.

On the subject of environmental, health, and safety considerations, one report from the workshop indicated that NIOSH officials have recommended folding these matters into the other goals, rather than maintaining a separate approach.  The officials noted that of the $1.65 billion in federal funding allocated in FY2013 for nanotechnology research and development, environmental, health, and safety initiatives constituted only 7.6% of those funds.

Some of the other issues addressed, according to the report were:

1.  Improving communication among researchers.

2.  Balancing availability of research with confidentiality of proprietary information.

3.  Developing a common dose metric for research.

This news report may be found by subscription at:

Robert Iafolla, Include Safety, Environmental Concerns in Strategic Plan, Nano Researcher Say, 115 BNA Daily Env’t Rep. A-8 (June 14, 2013), available at

http://www.bloomberglaw.com/document/XE9G8OHO000000?campaign=bnaemaillink&issue=20130614&jcsearch=bna%2520a0d9h7q4n9&js=0&sitename=bna&subscriptiontype=bnaden#jcite

 

Whatever steps may be necessary to ensure that environmental, health, and safety concerns are at the forefront of the discussion about nanotechnology should be made a priority.

 

A detailed presentation of the Questions for Stakeholders for discussion at the 2013 NNI Strategic Planning Stakeholder Workshop, with further links, may be found at:

http://nano.gov/sites/default/files/questions_for_stakeholders_final_numbered.pdf

Lab beakerOne of the hallmarks of scientific knowledge is the ability of researchers to replicate results.  This has eluded scientists studying the health effects of exposure to nanomaterials for a variety of reasons.  Among the factors are:  the unavailability of standardized engineered nanomaterials for testing; differences among the many manufacturers of nanomaterials; lack of standard protocols; and variations in toxicity among particles due to the way the particles behave in certain situations. 

To attempt to resolve these problems, dozens of researchers from universities and NIOSH participated in what has been called the NanGo Consortium to conduct health studies on engineered nanomaterials using the same materials and developing standard protocols.  The program was developed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The inter-laboratory, multi-investigator Consortium defined some of the challenges it faced as follows:

“In addition to dose, there are multiple factors that influence the toxicity of ENMs, including surface characteristics, charge, and shape. Size alone is a major determinant as many bulk materials that are relatively inert become toxic when produced at the nanoscale. . . . Determination of which ENMs will present the greatest potential threat to human health depends on relative toxicity, and on the potential for exposure.”  (pp. 5-6)

The Consortium conducted two broad sets of studies.  The first involved rats and mice exposed to carbon nanotubes and titanium dioxide, and measured pulmonary inflammation.  The Consortium concluded:  “The results presented and discussed herein demonstrate that a standard protocol can be used across multiple laboratories to yield similar results in the pulmonary inflammatory response.” (pp. 6-7)  The researchers are optimistic that with this start, there will be opportunities to determine the impact that exposure to nanomaterials may have on human at the preventive stage.

The second study examined the effects of carbon nanotubes, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide in vitro in laboratory container studies.  The Consortium noted:  “A significant finding of this study was that the development of harmonized in vitro assay protocols made it possible to achieve reproducible results among different laboratories.” (p. 16)  This study, the Consortium concluded, “provides new information on the relative in vitro bioactivity of a large group of diverse ENM that can be used to inform future strategies for in vitro testing and predicting in vivo outcomes.” (p. 6)

These studies move researchers in the direction of being able to replicate results and ultimately draw reliable conclusions about the potential health hazards of exposure to nanomaterials, leading to effective regulation.

The NIEHS NanoGo Consortium reports are available at

http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/121/4/ehp.1205693.pdf

http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/121/4/ehp.1306561.pdf

 

nano 5This blog has regularly addressed the quandary of whether existing regulatory laws are sufficient to deal with the risks of the marketing and use of nanomaterials or if additional legal frameworks are necessary.  Three European environmental groups have determined that additional safeguards are indeed required. 

On November 13, 2012, the Geneva-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), and London-based ClientEarth proposed a draft EU regulation in response to a European Commission report published in October 2012, Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials.  The groups argued that the Commission insufficiently addressed problems with the European Union’s REACH.

The Commission had concluded that nanomaterials did not require separate EU regulations, declaring that REACH provided the “best possible framework for the risk management of nanomaterials when they occur as substances and mixtures.” (High Time to Act: A Proposal for a “Nano Patch” for EU Regulation, at 3).

Attorneys for the environmental groups attacked REACH’s inherent loopholes and the lack of safety assessment before nanomaterials are placed on the market – two substantial issues whose appraisal was glaringly absent in the Commission’s Regulatory Review. 

Specifically, the groups argued that REACH provided regulators and the public with little to no information regarding the dangers and risk management of nanomaterials.  The environmental groups’ proposed “nano patch” on REACH aims to close these loopholes by employing the following mechanisms:

·        Documenting the hazards and risks in all relevant regulatory frameworks

·        Registering the nanomaterials and requiring operators to report the quantities of substances and their uses in the produced, distributed or imported nanoform

·        Labeling nanomaterials found in consumer products, including adding the suffix “nano” to the name of the ingredient

Some may find the proposed “nano patch” to be a bit oppressive and chilling to the progression of nanotechnology, but we just don’t know enough yet about the environmental and health effects of public consumption of nanomaterials. Regulation of some degree – but what degree – is clearly called for.  And while the United States has been the leader in some areas of regulation, it appears that for the time being, the EU may be the frontrunner in the nanontechnology regulatory race. Perhaps the U.S. should lace up and catch up. 

The draft EU regulation from the environmental groups – High Time to Act: A Proposal for a “Nano Patch” for EU Regulation – is available at:

http://www.ciel.org/Publications/Nanopatch_EU_Nov2012.pdf.

This post was written by guest blogger Holly Frey.  See her information here.

 

The Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) has announced a pilot program to examine the differences between risk assessment practices for nanomaterials in both countries with the goal of identifying and sharing the best practices.  The RCC was initiated in 2011 by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to coordinate the risk assessment practices of the two countries on a scale broader than nanotechnology.  Within the RCC, the Nanotechnology Working Group has focused specifically on looking into the potential risks of nanomaterials.

The Nanotechnology Work Plan generated by the RCC Nanotechnology Working Group states the following as the desirable outcome of the Group’s efforts:

“Share information and develop common approaches [between the two countries], to the extent possible, on foundational regulatory elements, including criteria for determining characteristics of concern/no concern, information gathering, approaches to risk assessment and management, etc.  Develop joint initiatives to align regulatory approaches in specific areas such that consistency exists for consumers and industry in Canada and the US.”

The stated purpose of the common approaches would be to “help ensure consistency for industry and consumers in both countries.”

The Working Group sees its ultimate task as the development of “a model framework providing key elements and approaches to regulating products and applications of emerging technologies with respect to potential impacts on the environment, human health, food or agriculture.”

All quite worthy goals.  But as with so many efforts to understand the potential health and environmental risks of nanomaterials, this effort has its pluses and minuses.

The best features of the RCC initiative are international governmental cooperation and sharing of expertise and experience.  But some of the same frustrations evident in the nanotechnology risk assessment and regulatory arena still exist.  For example, we are still looking at a protracted process of risk assessment, followed by a protracted process of developing regulations.  As part of that, the group must still agree upon a taxonomy and risk assessment goals and specific procedures.  And most certainly there will be fragmentation and duplication of efforts between North America and the rest of the world.

It’s still a good idea.  But let’s not expect too much too soon.

The Nanotechnology Work Plan is available at

http://www.trade.gov/rcc/documents/Nanotechnology.pdf

 

On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012).  A year ago, when the Court decided to hear the case, I wrote about it in this blog.  Now – a little belatedly – I am discussing the Court’s decision, as it has given the biotech industry reason to be concerned about its scope.

Prometheus was the sole and exclusive licensee of certain patents on methods for determining the optimal dosage of thiopurine drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases.  When Prometheus sued Mayo for patent infringement, Mayo argued that the patents in question were invalid because they claimed subject matter unpatentable under the Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. § 101. Specifically, Mayo argued that the patents impermissibly claimed natural phenomena – i.e. the correlations between drug metabolite levels and efficacy and toxicity – and not patentable inventions.  The district court had agreed with Mayo, but the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and held the patents valid.  In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, stating that the Prometheus patents were invalid under § 101 because the process incorporates the unpatentable laws of nature and “well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field.”  (p. 1294)  The Court stated:

    “If a law of nature is not patentable, then neither is a process reciting a law of nature, unless that process has additional features that provide practical assurance that the process is more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the law of nature itself.” (p. 1297)

The Court determined that the patent in question in this case did not have such “additional features.”  The Court was especially concerned that future innovation could be stifled by allowing patents on certain uses of the laws of nature.  The Court said that the measurement processes at issue in this case stated such a broad use of conventional procedures that they could be read to monopolize the field, making them unpatentable subject matter.  The Court stated:

    “We need not, and do not, now decide whether were the steps at issue here less conventional, these features of the claims would prove sufficient to invalidate them. For here, as we have said, the steps add nothing of significance to the natural laws themselves. . . .The presence here of the basic underlying concern that these patents tie up too much future use of laws of nature simply reinforces our conclusion that the processes described in the patents are not patent eligible . . . .” (p. 1302)

Not surprisingly, the decision has raised red flags in the biotech industry, particularly in the areas of medical diagnostics and personalized medical treatments.  In an article in the most recent issue of the ABA Journal, author Steven Seidenberg examined the impact that the Mayo decision is likely to have on such innovation.  The experts consulted for the article all had concerns about the breadth of the decision and the chilling effect it might have on future innovation.  See Steven Seidenberg, New Laws of Nature Law:  Ruling Questions Scientific Patents,ABA Journal (Jul. 2012), at 20-21.

There are some issues that may need resolution going forward:

●  When a procedure is “less conventional” than the procedure at issue in Mayo, will it be patentable?  Or must it be “unconventional” to be patentable?

●  What exactly is a “conventional procedure”?

●  To what degree does the case represent a broadening of the “laws of nature” exception to §101?Those in the biotech industry will need to mull over this decision as new innovations are developed.

Those in the biotech industry will need to mull over this decision as new innovations are developed.

The Supreme Court’s decision is available at

www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1150.pdf

 The ABA Journal article is available at

www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/new_laws_of_nature_law_ruling_questions_scientific_patents/

Many of the posts on this blog have addressed the regulation dilemma of whether to incorporate nanomaterials into the existing regulatory framework or develop separate regulations to manage their potential hazards.  This same dilemma is playing out in a slightly different way through a public-private partnership on exposures to carbon nanotubes in consumer products.

The NanoRelease project is engaged in this effort, with the support of numerous organizations, including U.S. EPA, Environment Canada, HealthCanada, and the American Chemistry Council.  Undertaken by the Government of Canada, the project has selected multi-walled carbon nanotubes in polymer to begin its study of the nature of exposures to nanomaterials.  The study includes determining likely release scenarios, evaluating release measurements, and considering needs for laboratory testing.  The research foundation has stated:  “The NanoRelease project will foster the safe development of nanomaterials by supporting development of methods to understand the release of nanomaterials used in products.”  Among other things, the group pledges to develop a “state of the science” report.

A summary of the project is available at

www.ilsi.org/ResearchFoundation/Documents/NR%20Orientation%20Powerpoint%20Presentation.pdf

Both the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are very interested in the ongoing process.  But will the ultimate result be “consensus standards” for nanomaterials that are efficient and effective?  Will consensus standards be followed by industry without a direct mandate?

Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Environment Reporter quoted John Howard, the director of NIOSH, as saying:  “We want to make sure that if we are developing consensus standards . . . that people are reading them and that people are adhering to them.  Otherwise heavy-handed government regulation – that industry always objects to – will come into fore and then we’ll have a less effective control system, a less efficient risk management system.”  (quoted in Pat Rizzuto, Regulators, Industry Sorting Through Potential Exposures to Carbon Nanotubes, 122 Daily Env’t Rep. (BNA) A-9 (June 26, 2012) (by subscription))

Will industry and governments agree on standards?  If so, some measure of regulation will be necessary, but probably not the “heavy-handed” sort that concerned Dr. Howard.  Consensus standards can be incorporated into existing regulatory regimes, perhaps rendering unnecessary separate extensive regulation for nanomaterials.  But essentially we are circling the same issue over and over again:  Is it possible to avoid separate, independent, and perhaps “heavy-handed” regulation of nanomaterials in the interest of public health and safety?  No question that it is an important issue.  And it remains unanswered.

usalawyerstoday.com

Sometimes the Government  just might work as it was intended.

In an earlier post, I reported on a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental and consumer safety groups requesting declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act to force the FDA to respond to a 2006 petition seeking action by the agency to assure the safety of members of the public exposed to nanomaterials, particularly nanoparticles in sunscreens.  On May 14, 2012, the coalition voluntarily dismissed its action, International Center for Technology Assessment v. Hamburg, a case that had been brought in federal court for the Northern District of California (No. 11-6592).

In other posts on this blog, I have reported on the draft guidances recently issued by the FDA on the safety of nanomaterials in food, food packaging, and cosmetics, as well as the upcoming International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulation (ICCR), to be hosted by the FDA.  The coalition has withdrawn its lawsuit because the FDA has in fact finally responded to the earlier petition by issuing the draft guidances.  Although attorneys for the coalition have emphasized that the FDA’s response does not propose all the relief the coalition sought in its lawsuit, at the present time the FDA is showing interest in the safety of engineered nanomaterials in products within the agency’s jurisdiction.  The lawsuit had sought, among other things, regulation of these nanomaterials.  But the FDA guidance documents made recommendations for voluntary measures by industry, not new regulation.  This, of course, leaves open the possibility of a future lawsuit challenging the steps taken – or not taken – by the FDA in furtherance of the safety initiatives.

Our high school civics classes teach us that the tripartite structure of the federal Government is intended to allow the various parts of the Government to act as a check on the actions or inactions of the other parts.  In recent years, the judicial system has been much maligned.  In the matter of nanomaterials and the FDA, the threat of judicial intervention – being told by the courts what it should do – was likely one (and only one) motivation for the FDA to pursue a safety agenda for nanomaterials.  Instead of needlessly consuming resources at this stage, the coalition withdrew its lawsuit when the FDA moved forward on this subject.  So let’s give a hand all around for the Government working as it was intended.

The withdrawal of the coalition’s lawsuit was reported by

Pat Rizzuto, Coalition Withdraws Lawsuit Against FDA Following Agency’s Release of Guidance, 100 Daily Env’t Rep. (BNA) A-15 (May 24, 2012) (by subscription)

Earlier I reported that the FDA had recently shown some intense interest, per its recent draft guidance document, in the safety of food and food packaging products containing nanomaterials.  In contrast, the FDA seemed to merely urged caution to the cosmetics industry about nanoparticles in their products.  Now, however, the FDA appears to be on the move toward giving nanomaterials in cosmetics their fair amount of attention.

In July, the FDA will host the International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulation (ICCR), which is expected to include cosmetics regulators fromCanada, the EU,Japan,Brazil,China,Australia, and other countries.  The conference is scheduled to include opportunities for participation by the industry and any other interested parties.  Nanomaterials represent only one item on the agenda (which includes alternatives to animal studies and regulation of trace elements of substances such as lead).

The conference’s interest in nanoparticles in cosmetics will be focused on methods to characterize nanoparticle ingredients with safety in mind.  The primary interest is in the use of nanoscale titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreen products.

T he upside to the attention FDA is giving to nanoparticles in cosmetics is that it begins a long process of deciding how to determine safety, whether to regulate, and whether new regulations for nanoparticles in sunscreens and other cosmetics will be necessary.  Recently, the FDA postponed the effective date of new labeling for sunscreens until after the current summer season.  Perhaps information learned about nanosubstances in sunscreens will make its way onto those new labels, or at least some version of the labels in the future.

Another upside is the use of an international forum including not just regulators, but industry attendees and others to identify the issues raised by nanoparticles in cosmetics.  A theme of this blog has been the need for a “same-page” approach in the international commercial arena.

The downside is the long slog of regulatory information gathering and activity – and sometimes inactivity.  And it is altogether possible that the various jurisdictions will go their own ways in approaching the subject.

After the ICCR meets in July, I will report on the proceedings.  For access to the official announcement of the conference, and for information from the FDA on previous ICCR conferences, reports, and other materials, see

 http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/InternationalActivities/ConferencesMeetingsWorkshops/InternationalCooperationonCosmeticsRegulationsICCR/default.htm