July 27, 2015 (Washington, DC)—Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) today filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to conditionally approve the antimicrobial nanosilver pesticide product “NSPW-L30SS” (previously “Nanosilva”) for use in an unknown number of textiles and plastics. Nanotechnology is a powerful new platform technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level. Consumer products containing manufactured nanoparticles have already arrived on market shelves, including nano-pesticide products.
“EPA’s approval of this nanotechnology pesticide product is irresponsible and contrary to law,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “Unfortunately the agency has failed to fulfill its duty to protect communities and the environment. Novel nanomaterials like this need comprehensive and rigorous analysis; instead EPA has allowed this product on the market while acknowledging it is missing safety data.”
The lawsuit, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeks to block EPA’s allowance of a nanosilver product on the market without the legally required analysis on its effects on humans, wildlife, and the environment. In its approval document, EPA admits that registration could result in exposure to workers, consumers, and the environment, including potentially harmful effects on workers and consumers who contact or breathe the chemical and toxic effects on animals exposed to the chemical. Despite this risk, EPA is allowing NSPW-L30SS on the market over the next four years while its manufacturer, Nanosilva LLC of Newnan, GA, generates the required data to determine its effects on public health and the environment.
Nanomaterials are rapidly entering the consumer marketplace, including the food industry. Particles at the nano scale – 1/100,000th the width of a human hair – already can be found in items ranging from sandwich bags and cutting boards to paints and sunscreens. The same unique properties that make nanomaterials desirable to industry also raise unique health and environmental risks.
“Nanotechnology is a novel technology that poses unique risks unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at ICTA. “Scientists agree that nanomaterials create novel risks that require new forms of toxicity testing. EPA’s use of a conditional registration could not be more inappropriate in this context.”
CFS and ICTA have long sought greater oversight of nanomaterials, starting with a 2008 legal petition to EPA. Nanosilver products are the overwhelmingly most incorporated nanomaterial in consumer products, commonly used as a powerful antimicrobial agent. CFS has identified over 400 nanosilver products on the market today. Because there are no labeling requirements for nano-scale products, many more likely have been commercialized without going through registration. Nanosilva LLC is the second company for which EPA has granted a pesticide registration for a nanosilver product.
When EPA failed to respond to CFS’s 2008 legal petition, CFS sued, forcing the agency to respond. In that response, EPA agreed to regulate novel nanomaterial pesticides as a result of a lawsuit filed by CFS in December, 2014. Based on the same authority, in April 2015, EPA issued an order to stop the sale of “BioStorm” and “NanoStrike,” two nanosilver based products from Nano Defense Solutions, Inc. marketed by the company for use in hospitals and athletic facilities.
EPA’s approval of NSPW-L30SS is also another example of the agency’s reliance on conditional registration to allow products into the market without sufficient and legally required data. In August, 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report, concluding that “EPA does not have a reliable system to track key information related to conditional registrations, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required timeframes.” This deficiency allows conditionally registered pesticides that have not been fully evaluated, such as NSPW-L30SS, to remain on the market for years without EPA’s receipt and review of the data registration is conditioned upon.