The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $5.5 million to three consortia to support research on nanotechnology. EPA, in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council, is leading this scientific research effort to better understand the potential risks to people’s heath and the environment. The scientific information developed from the research can help guide EPA and other agencies in decisions about the safety of new materials and products that are made using nanotechnology.
“The responsible development of nanotechnology can play a major role in sustaining a positive, healthy environment, a vibrant and growing economy, and a high standard of living,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “Understanding the risks posed by engineered nanomaterials is a global challenge that is best met through international collaboration, drawing on the combined expertise of researchers from diverse backgrounds.”
Nanotechnology is the science of very small matter called nanomaterials, which are structured in size between one to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is 100,000 times thinner than a strand of hair. At extremely small sizes, the laws of physics change, and nanomaterials can exhibit unique properties different than the same chemical substances in a larger size. This opens up new opportunities for the development of innovative products and services.
The grants EPA has awarded will help researchers determine whether certain nanomaterials can leach out of products such as paints, plastics and fabrics when they are used or disposed of and whether they could become toxic to people and the environment. Many U.S. industries can benefit from the positive applications of nanotechnology, including environmental remediation, pollution prevention, innovative drug delivery and therapy, efficient renewable energy and effective energy storage.
In addition to EPA’s $5.5 million, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has contributed $500,000 through a new research partnership between the two agencies. Grant awards were made to three consortia consisting of researchers from the United States and the UK. Each U.S. team of researchers received $2 million from EPA and CPSC for a total of $6 million. Each UK team also receives $2 million from the UK agencies, resulting in a grand total of $12 million to conduct the research.