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February 9, 2012

EPA Posts Summary of 2011 Nanomaterial Case Studies Workshop

Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 9, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a summary report on its January 2011 workshop on nanoscale silver. The workshop was the second in a series conducted by the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) to further the development of a research strategy for completing comprehensive environmental assessments of nanomaterials.  The basis of the workshop was the report Nanomaterial Case Study:  Nanoscale Silver in Disinfectant Spray.  According to the summary report, the outcomes of this and future workshops in the series — prioritized information gaps and risk tradeoffs — will be used in developing and refining a long-term research strategy to assess potential human health and ecological risks of nanomaterials and to manage associated risks of specific nanomaterials.

The goal of this workshop was to prioritize responses to the question of what research or information is most needed to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment of nanoscale silver used in disinfectant spray? The workshop used the nominal group technique (NGT) as the collective judgment tool to facilitate the discussion and prioritization of information needs among the group of diverse participants. The summary report lists prioritized research questions within the following research themes:

1.         Analytical Methods (120 points, 19 votes);

2.         Exposure and Susceptibility (120 points, 17 votes);

3.         Physical and Chemical Toxicity (115 points, 16 votes);

4.        Kinetics and Dissolution (98 points, 15 votes);

5.         Surface Characteristics (81 points, 14 votes);

6.         Sources and Release (76 points, 15 votes);

7.         Mechanisms of Nanoscale Silver Toxicity (72 points, 11 votes);

8.         Test Methods — Mammals/Humans (67 points, 11 votes);

9.         Ecotoxicity Test Methods (59 points, 10 votes);

10.       Is New Nano Unique? (59 points, 10 votes);

11.       Biological Effects (56 points, 10 votes);

12.       Ecological Effects Required for Risk Assessment (43 points, 9 votes);

12.       Communication, Engagement, and Education (43 points, 9 votes);

14.       Fate and Transport of Nano-Ag (39 points, 12 votes);

14.       Adequacy of Current Data (39 points, 6 votes);

16.       Dissolution (36 points, 9 votes);

17.       Information from Manufacturers (35 points, 10 votes);

17.       Adaptive Tolerance/Resistance (35 points, 8 votes);

19.       Metrics (33 points, 7 votes);

20.       Kinetics II (22 points, 5 votes);

21.       Benefits (9 points, 5 votes);

22.       Incentivize Research for Comprehensive Environmental Assessment (CEA) (8 points, 1 vote); and

23.       CEA Framework (1 point, 1 vote).