Several consumer and environmental groups, including the Center for Food Safety and Center for Environmental Health, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for EPA’s alleged failure to respond to the groups’ 2008 petition calling for regulation of consumer products containing nano-sized versions of silver. Ctr. for Food Safety v. EPA, No. 14-2131 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.C., filed December 16, 2014).

According to the complaint, the 2008 petition requested that EPA classify nano-silver products as pesticides and provided EPA with a legal, policy and scientific blueprint for necessary action. EPA opened a comment period on the matter later that year but allegedly failed to take any further action. The petition also included an index of products that contained nano-silver, including food storage containers, food/produce cleaners, cutlery, cutting boards, and ingestible “health” drink supplements.

The groups assert that nanomaterials “create unique human health and environmental risks, which require new health and safety testing paradigms,” for a variety of reasons, including their “unprecedented mobility in human bodies and the environment.” Nano-silver particles in particular “will likely threaten the beneficial bacteria that underpin ecosystem functions,” the complaints assert. “If the EPA fails to regulate pesticide products that incorporate nanosilver,” Steve Suppan of the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy said in a December 17, 2014, press release, “farmers will soon be exposed to the unique health risks of nanomaterials, and will be uninformed about what they must do to protect themselves, and their families, neighbors, land, water and livestock from nano-pesticide drift.” Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman was also quoted as saying, “Like any toxic pesticide, nano-silver must be subject to the full force of the law and label restrictions intended to protect people’s health and the environment.”