Volunteers of America: Step up to the Nano-Challenge

volunteers.jpgAt USEPA, these days, everything seems voluntary. Regulation is just a suggestion, like a yellow light in New Jersey, like a forgotten pop hit from the 1960's. Here's a current Federal Register notice excerpt. The tone tells the difference.

Nanoscale Materials; Notice of Public Meeting

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: EPA will conduct a public meeting on nanoscale materials to discuss a potential voluntary pilot program for certain nanoscale materials and the information needed to adequately inform the conduct of the pilot program. Contiinues the Federal Register Notice: "Nanoscale materials are chemical substances containing structures in the length scale of approximately 1 to 100 nanometers, and may have different molecular organizations and properties than the same chemical substances in a larger size. Some of the nanoscale materials are new chemical substances subject to notification requirements under section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and, therefore, are subject to review for potential human health and environmental risks before they are manufactured and enter commerce. Other nanoscale materials are existing chemical substances that may enter commerce without notification to EPA. EPA is considering a potential voluntary pilot program for such nanoscale materials. To that end, EPA is requesting comments at the public meeting on: (1) The scope and purpose of a voluntary pilot program for nanoscale materials that are existing chemical substances, (2) kinds of information that are relevant to the evaluation of potential risks from exposure to nanoscale materials, (3) chemical characterization and nomenclature of nanoscale materials for regulatory purposes, and (4) identification of interested stakeholders. These comments will inform EPA on possible approaches to protect human health and the environment from exposure to such chemical substances".

After 60 years, the pattern becomes obvious. Nuclear energy. Synthetic pesticides. Genetically modified organisms. Mamalian cloning. Stem cell-based human health intervention. And now, Nano-materials. All take amorphous forms, and all are invisible to designers and consumers. Some of the most basic controversies from 50 year old technologies of this pattern linger. Example: where do we put the nuclear waste?

The critical question for TreeHuggers is simple. At what point might we become optimistic enough to consider them green? Early...or late in their commercial development? Before or after regulatory oversight? When climate changes increases our desperation? Design controls or creates exposure. Design answers the question and remains fertile ground for optimism.

by: John Laumer

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