Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.
It had to happen sooner or later. After several years spent by the UK and US governments conceptualizing, vetting, proposing, again vetting, developing, yet again vetting, and finally launching and reporting on their voluntary reporting programs for engineered nanoscale materials – only to have them largely spurned by the intended targets – other governments observing all this have decided that mandatory approaches are needed.
The UK was the first to try the voluntary approach. Its Voluntary Reporting Scheme was launched in September 2006 and ran for two years. It closed out in September 2008 after attracting only 11 submissions.
It took the US another 16 months to follow suit with its voluntary Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP), launched in January 2008 and also intended to run for at least two years. EPA's interim report, which evaluated the submissions it received from 21 companies in the first seven months, was released last month. That count has increased now to 29 companies, more than the UK program attracted but still a small fraction of the companies engaged in nanomaterial activities in the US (I blogged about the report's findings earlier).
With many more companies and nanomaterials in or about to enter commerce than have been captured by these voluntary efforts, and the inability of government to judge how complete or selective the data it is receiving actually are, it appears other governments are opting for mandatory reporting.
First comes France, which, as reported by SafeNano, proposed new legislative amendments in early January that would require that "those who manufacture, import or place on the market nanoparticulate substances periodically report to the administrative authorities the identity, quantity and uses of these substances. In addition, a further note declares that information on identity and use of substances should be made available to the public, except if doing so would be potentially damaging to national defense."
Then comes California (which is not at all unaccustomed to acting as if it were a national government!). Its Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) posted a notice on its website and sent a letter on January 22 to several dozen companies, universities and research facilities that produce in or import into the state carbon nanotubes (CNTs). DTSC's "information call-in" for CNTs requires submission, within one year, of data regarding "analytical test methods [for sampling, detection and measurement of CNTs in workplaces and the environment], fate and transport in the environment, and other relevant information."
And now it appears Canada is poised to issue in mid-February a Ministerial Notice requiring mandatory reporting of information relating to nanoscale materials. Canada has been planning to issue such a notice for some time, based on information it submitted for inclusion in a June 2008 Tour de Table document (see Canada section) recently made public. That document summarizes nanotechnology safety-related activities of various OECD countries participating in the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
As reported in the Daily Environment Report on January 26 (subscription required), a spokeswoman for Environment Canada said companies would have to report "basic information on the quantity of the substance that is manufactured or imported, details about the use of the substance, and any data on physical and chemical properties, toxicity data currently available to respondents, and information on the procedures, policies and technological solutions that have been put in place to prevent or minimize releases of the substance to the environment and exposure to individuals." The reporting requirement will apply to nanomaterials produced or imported in amounts exceeding one kilogram in 2008, and the requested information is to be submitted within four months.
With even EPA having hinted in its interim report on the NMSP that it will now look seriously into developing mandatory reporting and testing rules, it appears that the "voluntary phase" of government policy toward nanomaterials may have run its course.