Category: Nanosilver

Earlier I reported that the FDA had recently shown some intense interest, per its recent draft guidance document, in the safety of food and food packaging products containing nanomaterials.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

usalawyerstoday.com

usalawyerstoday.com

On May 19, 2011, the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (Pesticides, Chemical Regulation and Right-to-Know Committee) and Section of Science and Technology Law (Nanotechnology Committee) presented a webinar on the subject of “Nano Governance:  The Current State of Federal, State, and International Regulation.”  Speakers came from all sectors, including private law firms and industry.

Listening to these excellent and expert speakers for a full afternoon, certain clear points and patterns emerged that I will share briefly here.

1.  Size.  It really is all about size.  Every speaker acknowledged the role of the size of nanoparticles in developing testing protocols and approaches to regulation.  Nanomaterials may behave differently from macroscale materials of the same substance, and may differ from one another in significant ways.

2.  Progress.  Regulatory agencies are turning their attention to the health and safety aspects of nanotechnology.  There is a pervasive concern about the prevalence of these technologies and the paucity of studies.

3.  Fragmentation.  Attention to the potential issues raised by nanotechnology continues to be highly fragmented.  There has been intensely focused attention to some issues, but others remain to be addressed.

For example, EPA, through its authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), has focused attention on regulating nanosilver and other nanomaterials in FIFRA-registered products.  Under FIFRA, all pesticides need to be registered (i.e. licensed) before they may be sold, and as part of that process, a pesticide applicant must show that its product will not “cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”  Currently, some pesticides that contain nanomaterials are already on the market, having been licensed prior to EPA’s scrutiny of nanomaterials.  Other applications are pending for registration of pesticides containing nanomaterials.  EPA’s draft policy proposal would treat a pesticide as “new” if it contains a nanoscale material, regardless of whether a non-nanoscale form of that same ingredient is already in a registered product.  Thus, for example, nanosilver would be treated as “new” even though silver is a registered pesticide.  But risks assessment lags behind.  According to webinar speaker William Jordan, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Pesticide Programs for EPA, “more data are needed in all disciplines to have adequate information to assess the risks of nanosilver.”

Nanomaterials elsewhere in products and the environment are subject to potential regulation under other federal statutes, and some state programs (California being represented at the webinar).  But progress in one area does not necessarily mean progress elsewhere.  The EU and Australia are progressing, but the need remains for some vehicle to standardize definitions and approaches.  And standardization remains a debatable issue in itself.

4.  Industry Uncertainty.  Webinar speaker Rosalind Volpe, Executive Director of an industry association, Silver Technology Working Group (a program of Silver Research Consortium LLC, Durham, NC), expressed the concerns of the industry that EPA’s steps to regulate nanosilver give the impression that nanomaterials are harmful.  The industry is concerned that there is a “cloud of uncertainty” over it, which discourages investors and deters innovation, even where the nanomaterials used may not pose any health or safety problems.

5.  Bottom Line.  The bottom line, as usual, seems to be the need for an appropriate balance between technological progress and safety of humans and the environment.

Other speakers at the webinar included representatives of:

Nanotechnologies Industries Association, Brussels, Belgium

Chemical Control Division, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, EPA

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

California Nanotechnology Initiative

California Department of Toxic Substances Control

Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.

. . . and several attorneys in private practice

nano 3On November 22, 2010, EPA submitted a proposed rule under Section 8(a) of TSCA to the Office of Management and Budget for its review.  The proposed rule includes reporting requirements for manufacturers of nanoscale materials and could be published in the Federal Register for public comment in December.

 The first of three proposed rules expected in 2011, this proposed rule would require disclosure of information on manufacturing and processing, as well as on exposure and release of nanomaterials.  This is merely a prelude to any actual regulation of the industries and processes making use of nanotechnology.  It is a critical step toward reducing risks to human health and the environment.  But it also highlights the fact that regulation of nanomaterials is a long, slow process that may not yield satisfactory results for many years.

 In September, an EPA representative told members of the nanomaterials industry, “We are at the stage where we really don’t have a clear idea of how to manage risk. . . . The more information we can collect through regulation—on what is being manufactured, toxicity data, and the development of the proper protocols for measuring toxic effects of the nanomaterial—the better off we will be to manage the risk and demonstrate to the American people we have a handle on the issue.”

 The current proposal can be seen as early steps in risk assessment, but far from the risk management eventually envisioned by EPA.

The European Union may be further ahead.  On November 24, 2010, the European Parliament voted to extend its restriction on many hazardous substances to most electrical and electronic products, but stopped short of imposing a restriction on nanosilver and carbon nanotubes.  Observers say that it is likely that these substances will be incorporated into the law when the law comes up for review in three years.  Thus, the EU may be heading toward management of the risks of nanotechnology more quickly than the U.S.

 Even so, why so slow?  Regulators should get moving on resolving obstacles such as the scope of nanoscale definitions, deciding how much data is enough before effective regulation may be accomplished, and whether small businesses warrant an exception to regulation.

 

Sources (all by BNA subscription):

225 BNA Daily Env’t Rptr. A-6 (Nov. 24, 2010)

34 BNA Chemical Reg. Rptr. 1149 (Nov. 24, 2010)

34 BNA Chemical Reg. Rptr 960 (Oct. 4, 2010)

Getty Images

Getty Images

The good news is that both the European Union and Australia are moving toward adopting definitions of “nanomaterials” that will be used for setting standards for and developing regulation of these substances.  The news that may give some people cause for thought is that the definitions are not identical.

 This post is an update to my original post on the subject and looks at two definitions.  Consider the following.

  The European Commission, in a draft recommendation currently available for public consultation, has defined “nanomaterial” as

 “a material that meets at least one of the following criteria:

- consists of particles, with one or more external dimensions in the size range 1 nm – 100 nm for more than 1% of their number size distribution;

- has internal or surface structures in one or more dimensions in the size range 1 nm – 100 nm;

- has a specific surface area by volume greater than 60 m²/cm³, excluding materials consisting of particles with a size lower than 1 nm.”  (Art. 2, Sec. 1)

 The European Commission’s draft also indicated that the definition will be used “as an overarching, broadly applicable reference term for any Union communication or legislation addressing nanomaterials.”  (Preamble, 12)  Moreover, the Commission has recommended that the definition be reviewed frequently and adjusted to reflect scientific advances.  (Preamble, 7)

The Australian government is using a different definition, however, in a new administrative process published by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).  The procedure requires new chemical manufacturers and importers to notify NICNAS of their intent to manufacture or import nanoscale chemicals and defines “nanomaterials” as

 “industrial materials intentionally produced, manufactured, or engineered to have unique properties or specific composition at the nanoscale, that is a size range typically between 1 nm and 100 nm, and is either a nano-object (i.e. that is confined in one, two, or three dimensions at the nanoscale) or is structured (i.e. having an internal or surface structure at the nanoscale”

 Further, the Notes to the working definition add that “where size distribution shows 10% or more of a substance (based on number of particles) is at the nanoscale, NICNAS will consider this substance to be a nanomaterial for risk assessment purposes.”

 The different definitions raise several issues:

 ●  The difference between 1%, per the European Commission, and 10%, per Australia’s NICNAS, could mean that many more substances would fall within the definition under EU standards than under Australia’s standards.

 ●  In an increasingly global economy, should manufacturers of nanomaterials be required to meet separate standards based upon definitions that vary from government to government?  One answer to this question is, Why not?  Manufacturers of chemicals and other products are frequently asked to meet different standards around the world, where some countries may be quite stringent and others lenient.  The tobacco industry moved a large segment of its business to Asia in response to litigation and regulation in the U.S., hoping to take advantage of a different regulatory climate.  Conversely, however, varying regulatory standards for chemicals can create difficulties and confusion for manufacturers and importers.

 ●  Nanotechnology is not only new to regulation as a discrete category, but will also be regulated in the international arena in the first instance.  Wouldn’t consistency, at least in the definition of nanomaterials, best serve this process?

 ●  Nanotechnology is widely viewed as beneficial with broad potential across all sectors of modern life.  Consistent definitions of what constitutes nanomaterials would assist firms in making business decisions going forward.

 Perhaps different definitions are only a step along the way toward ultimate agreement and consistency in the global arena.  Let’s hope so.

 The European Commission draft is available at

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

 The NICNAS processes are available at

http://www.nicnas.gov.au/Publications/Chemical_Gazette/pdf/2010oct_whole.pdf#page=14