March 9, 2009: As reported in the Electronic Engineering Times, the U.S. EPA has begun enforcing new rules for companies handling carbon nanotubes. Manufacturers will be required to file premanufacturing notices, which will be used to evaluate the health and safety measures necessary to protect workers and consumers from possible health hazards associated with the tubes.
The Toxic Substances Control Act stipulated the premanufacturing notices in October 2008. Though categorized differently from graphite or carbon black, carbon nanotubes are classified as chemicals and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA's Chemical Control Division. The EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance will collect and evaluate the premanufacturing notices.
In Canada, companies are required to report when they manufacture or purchase nanoparticles in quantities of 1 kg or more. They also must provide information about the material's physical and chemical properties, and describe how it will be used, handled and stored.
As it formulates its own policies, the U.S. EPA is transitioning from information gathering to risk control, according to experts speaking at a recent conference on nanotechnology regulation. Eventually, all manufacturers using carbon nanotubes will be required to supply protective suits and breathing apparatuses to workers who handle the tubes.
Manufacturers also will be asked to pay for developing toxicity data. Depending on the application, some may also be required to embed nanotubes in a polymer or otherwise confine them.