I have two pieces about nanosilver today (Nov. 11 ,2013). The first concerns a Nov. 7, 2013 court ruling in favour of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stating that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to follow its own rules when it accorded HeiQ Materials (a Swiss textile company) permission to market and sell its nanosilver-based antimicrobial fabric treatment in the US. From the NRDC’s Nov. 7, 2013 press release,
Court Ruling in NRDC’s Favor Should Limit Pesticide Nanosilver in Textiles
In a decision handed down today, the court said the EPA had improperly approved the use of nanosilver by one U.S. textile manufacturer [HeiQ Materials; headquarteed in Switzerland]. The court vacated the approval and sent it back to the agency for reevaluation. The lawsuit has been closely watched as a test case for the growing use of nanotechnology in consumer products.
“The court’s ruling puts us a step closer toward removing nanosilver from textiles,” said Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC’s Health Program. “EPA shouldn’t have approved nanosilver in the first place. This is just one of a long line of decisions by the agency treating people and our environment as guinea pigs and laboratories for these untested pesticides.”
NRDC sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in early 2012 to limit the use of nanosilver out of a concern for public health. Today the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a key point NRDC raised: that the EPA didn’t follow its own rules for determining whether the pesticide’s use in products would be safe.
Beginning in December 2011, EPA approved the company HeiQ Materials to sell nanosilver used in fabrics for the next four years and required the company to provide data on toxicity for human health and aquatic organisms. In early 2012, NRDC filed a lawsuit against EPA seeking to block nanosilver’s use, contending, among several points, that the agency had ignored its own rules for determining the safety of nanosilver.
The key part of today’s Ninth Circuit ruling addressed EPA’s determination that there is no risk concern for toddlers exposed to nanosilver-treated textiles. The agency’s rules state that if there’s an aggregate exposure to the skin or through ingestion at or below a specific level, there is a risk of health concerns. But the Ninth Circuit found that the EPA had data showing that nanosilver was right at the level that should have triggered a finding of potential risk, but approved the pesticide anyway. That led to the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s approval and sending it back down to the agency for reevaluation.
Published in July 2013 (?), Nate Seltenrich’s article, Nanosilver: Weighing the Risks and BenefitsNanosilver: Weighing the Risks and Benefits, for the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) [published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]) provides some insight into the court case and the issues,
It takes a special sort of case to spur attorneys into a debate over the drooling habits of toddlers. Yet that’s where lawyers from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Swiss chemicals company HeiQ found themselves in January 2013 as they debated in a federal appeals court the extent to which 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds chew, salivate, and swallow.1
At issue in the NRDC’s suit against the EPA, which is still awaiting ruling, was whether the agency was right in granting a conditional registration in December 2011 to a nanosilver-based antimicrobial fabric treatment manufactured by HeiQ.2 The EPA’s risk assessment was based in part on assumptions about exposure of 3-year-olds by sucking or chewing on nanosilver-laced textiles such as clothing, blankets, and pillowcases.
NRDC lawyer Catherine Rahm, however, begged to differ with the agency’s methods. In the January hearing, she argued that the agency record shows infants are more likely than any other subset of children to chew on fabrics that could contain the pesticide, and that if the agency were to recalculate its risk assessment based on the body weight of a 1-year-old, nanosilver concentrations in HeiQ’s product could result in potentially harmful exposures.
It’s an obscure but critical distinction as far as risk assessment goes. And given the implications for HeiQ and other companies looking to follow in its footsteps, the case has landed at the center of a prolonged conflict over the regulation of nanosilver and the growing deployment of this antimicrobial ingredient in a variety of commercial and consumer products.
Yet regardless of which side prevails in the case, the truth about nanosilver is not black and white. Even the loudest voices joining the NRDC’s call for strict regulation of nanosilver concede that context is key.
Seltenrich goes on to recount a little of the history of nanosilver and provide a brief a relatively balanced overview of the research. At the end of the article, he lists 37 reference documents and offers links, should you wish to research further. For anyone interested in HeiQ, here’s the company website.
The second nanosilver news item is from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation( online. In an article by Evelyn Boychuk titled, Silver nanoparticle use spurs U.S. consumer database; Database tracks growing number of consumer goods containing nanomaterials, these nanoparticles are discussed within the context of a resuscitated Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) Consumer Products Inventory (CPI), which was mentioned in my Oct. 28, 2013 posting titled: Rising from the dead: the inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products. The articles offers an easy introduction to the topic and refers to a database of silver,nanotechnology in commercial products (complementary to the larger CPI).