The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), concerned about potential hazards to human health and the environment, has issued a final rule that will require anyone intending “to manufacture, import, or process either [multi-walled or single-walled carbon nanotubes] for a use that is designated as a significant new use by this final rule to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity.”  

Effective October 18, 2010, the rule applies to chemicals identified generically (for confidentiality reasons) as PMN P-08-177 and PMN P-08-328. The notice requirement will give EPA the opportunity to evaluate any proposed new use and regulate prospective manufacturers, importers or processors before the use occurs. Among other matters, those working with the substances will be required to use protective equipment, such as full-face respirators, gloves and protective clothing.  

According to a news source, this is EPA’s first rule for significant new uses of carbon nanotubes, which are apparently used in advanced composites, fuel cells and electronics. Due to their strength and other properties, they are reportedly the most widely used nanoscale products and are considered to have a broad array of potential commercial applications. Researchers have apparently found that some carbon nanotubes have effects similar to asbestos when injected into the lungs of lab mice. The rule also prohibits the chemicals’ release into water. See Federal Register, September 17, 2010; Inside EPA, September 20, 2010.