EPA’s Science Policy Council has issued the Nanotechnology White Paper (EPA/100/B-07/001, February 2007). The purpose of the White Paper is to inform EPA management of the science issues and needs associated with nanotechnology, to support related EPA program office needs, and to communicate these nanotechnology science issues to stakeholders and the public.
Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling and manipulating matter at this scale. At the nanoscale, the physical, chemical and biological properties of materials may differ in fundamental and valuable ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules or bulk matter. Nanotechnology presents new opportunities to improve how we measure, monitor, manage and minimize contaminants in the environment. New generations of nanomaterials will evolve and with them new and possibly unforeseen environmental issues.
The Nanotechnology White Paper provides:
- A basic description of nanotechnology
- Information on why EPA is interested in nanotechnology
- Potential environmental benefits of nanotechnology
- Risk assessment issues specific to nanotechnology
- A discussion of responsible development of nanotechnology and the EPA’s statutory mandates
- An extensive review of research needs for both environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology
- Staff recommendations for addressing science issues and research needs, and includes prioritized research needs within most risk assessment topic areas (e.g., human health effects research, fate and transport research)
- An appendix that contains a description of EPA's framework for nanotechnology research, which outlines how EPA will strategically focus its own research program to provide key information on potential environmental impacts from human or ecological exposure to nanomaterials in a manner that complements other federal, academic, and private-sector research activities.
- Collaboration with other researchers is a major focus of the paper.
The Agency is engaging in knowledge gathering through several efforts:
- Support of in-house and extramural research
- Support of innovative technologies for detection and measurement of nanoparticles in the environment
- Organizing scientific workshops, symposia and conferences
- Coordinating with a variety of stakeholders—including industry, academia, NGOs, other federal agencies, and international organizations—to obtain additional information and enhance coordination and collaboration
- Coordinating within EPA to ensure that we ask the right questions and gather the right data to address our various statutory mandates for environmental protection.