The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin to regulate new nanomaterial pesticides due to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS). In 2008, a coalition of nonprofits filed a legal petition requesting that the agency recognize the growing class of nanosilver consumer products and their risks, and regulate them as new pesticides. After the EPA failed to acknowledge the petition last December, the coalition sued the agency last March to force it to respond.
Nanotechnology manipulates materials at the atomic and molecular levels; they are so tiny they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope and possess extraordinary mobility and unique chemical and biological properties that increase the potential for biological interaction and toxicity. There are no labeling requirements for nanoscale products.
The EPA has since agreed that nanosilver products intended to kill microorganisms qualify as pesticides, and that developers of such products must now seek EPA review and approval before the products are marketed. The agency has not committed, however, to undertake enforcement actions against currently commercialized products that haven’t undergone the EPA registration process, although it has taken action against some noncompliant manufacturers.