US authorities aim for voluntary nanotechnology regulation

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nanotechnology

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spearheading moves to
voluntarily regulate the introduction of nanoscale materials in a
variety of applications, including the cosmetics and toiletries
market, in a move that is expected to throw some much needed light
on the area.

With growing concerns regarding the still largely unknown effects of nanoparticles on both the environment and humans, The EPA​ says that a framework is being built with the help of a number of health, environmental, government and advocacy group to ensure that the responsible use of the technology.

Stemming from a meeting that happened in June, the group has now established a pilot program aimed at collecting information on known nanoscale materials in an effort to establish their safety and potential toxicity.

According to a report in The Scientist, the attendees included 150 scientists and officials of other industry and organizational bodies, unanimously agreed that such a system should be put in place.

Specific to the cosmetics industry, scientists and advocacy groups have said that they are concerned that cosmetics formulations containing nanoparticles - of which a number of products are already on the market - have not been categorically proved safe following extensive discussions and presentations.

Last month, both the FDA and the UK-based Royal Society re-iterated their fears that, because of the size of nanoparticles used in cosmetics formulations, they could easily be absorbed into the body through topical applications.

Further to this, because nanoparticles often have their own chemical properties and toxicity levels, they should be treated as being completely different to their normal-sized derivatives.

The EFA is aiming to throw more light on this area by maintaining dialogue between bodies working in all aspects of the technology's development. However, experts in the field have their work cut out, as conventional methods of screening for toxicity and risk assessment do not work on such a small scale.

The EPA is currently working towards forming a clear strategy for the voluntary reporting scheme, the foundations of which should be in place by the end of this year.

Charles Auer, director of the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, told The Scientist: "When we will have all these issues resolved, I don't know. There are a lot of wrinkles here to be sorted through, but there's a lot of work underway."

Nanotechnology involves the study and use of materials at an extremely small scale - at sizes of millionths of a millimetre - and exploits the fact that some materials have different properties at this ultra-small scale from those at a larger scale. One nanometer is the same as one millionth of a millimeter.

Industry experts see the use of nanotechnology and the incorporation of nanoparticles into skin care formulations, including sun care and anti-aging products, as an area of immense potential for a category that continues to witness some of the largest annual sales growth.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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