The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to regulate nanotechnology under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for the first time. Specifically, the Washington Post reports, the EPA will adopt new regulations on the use nanoparticles of silver as germ-killing agents.
The decision -- which will affect the marketing of high-tech odor-destroying shoe liners, food-storage containers, air fresheners, washing machines and a wide range of other products that contain tiny bacteria-killing particles of silver -- marks a significant reversal in federal policy. It also creates an unexpected regulatory hurdle for the burgeoning field of nanotechnology, which involves the creation of materials just a few ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair.
Given the nature of FIFRA, the EPA will only regulate products containing "nanosilver" if the manufacturer makes germ-killing claims.
Under the new determination, first reported on Tuesday by the Daily Environment Report, a Washington publication, and confirmed yesterday by the EPA, any company wishing to sell a product that it claims will kill germs by the release of nanotech silver or related technology will first have to provide scientific evidence that the product does not pose an environmental risk. . . .
[The EPA's] Jones said the final rules will be spelled out in the Federal Register sometime in the next few months. He acknowledged, however, that the EPA oversight will apply only to products advertised as germ-killing -- a detail that at least one major retailer has apparently noted.
The Sharper Image, which until recently advertised as anti-microbial several products containing nanosilver, has dropped all such references from its marketing materials.
In such cases, Jones said, the EPA will not act. "Unless you're making a claim to kill a pest, you're not a pesticide," he said.