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April 3, 2024

EPA Describes Future of Its Nanotechnology Research

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a research update on April 2, 2024, entitled “Advancing Environmental Safety: Celebrating 20 years of Nanotechnology Research at EPA.” The item states that EPA collaborates across federal and state governments, industry, and the international community on nano-related research. In addition to its in-house nanotechnology research, EPA supports nano-related research through external grant programs such as the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs. According to the item, EPA’s nanotechnology environmental research is guided by the 2021 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategic Plan and the 2011 NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy (NanoEHS Strategy). The NanoEHS Strategy is in the process of being updated, and more information is available in our April 6, 2023, blog item.

The item states that EPA research programs will continue to collect and mine nanomaterials data as well as to produce new characterization methods. EPA uses this research to inform both exposure and hazard assessments and to support risk-based decisions related to implementation of its environmental statutes, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to the item, future directions for EPA research include:

  • Nanopesticides: Create an identification framework for pesticides containing carbonaceous nanomaterials; determine physical and chemical properties and transport in the environment; and determine environmental impact on watersheds;
  • Nano-printers: Continue work on quantification of additive manufacturing/three-dimensional (3D) printing incidental nanoparticle emissions and realistic estimates for exposure to aerosols and volatile organic compounds;
  • NaKnowBase database: Continue inclusion of novel EPA data, enhance improved data interoperability of nanomaterials environmental health and safety data with federal partners;
  • Nanosensors: Detection and remediation of drinking water and air pollutants and use of nanosensors for identification of Contaminants of Immediate and Emerging Concern (CIEC), such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS);
  • Nanoplastics: Detection, characterization, fate, transport, and human and aquatic life toxicity; and
  • Capacity building of future expertise through training students, hiring post-doctoral scientists, and supporting research grants to build the next generation of EPA researchers.