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May 30, 2007

PEN Report Recommends TSCA Amendments

Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 23, 2007, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) released a report entitled EPA and Nanotechnology: Oversight for the 21st Century, which identifies actions that should be taken to establish an oversight system. The report focuses in particular on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which it describes as “a key agency in any oversight effort because of its numerous regulatory authorities and its mission to protect the environment and human health.” According to the report, a review of existing EPA authorities reveals a number of weaknesses. In particular, the report states that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), “which is the only law potentially capable of providing general oversight for nanotechnology, is extremely deficient in many respects and needs to be amended.” Moving beyond TSCA, the report states further that “virtually every authority that EPA has at its disposal has weaknesses in terms of nanotechnology oversight.” The report discusses tools that will need to be combined in an oversight system, including information tools, voluntary efforts, economic tools, and liability. The report also discusses the role of state and local governments, and public participation, and outlines nine different examples of the ways the tools could be used. The report concludes with an action agenda containing more than 25 actions necessary to improve the oversight of nanotechnologies.