The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that, in response to public comments, it will provide the public more time to comment on the December 28, 2011, proposed significant new use rules (SNUR) for 17 chemical substances that were the subject of premanufacture notices (PMN). Of particular interest, seven of the PMN substances’ reported chemical names include the term “carbon nanotube” (CNT) or “CNT.” EPA states “the comment period is being reopened until 45 days following publication of the new notice (until approximately mid-March).”  Importantly, the docket reveals that requests for extension were submitted by the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), and the United Steelworkers Union (USW).  The USW comment specifically asserts that the “specific protection measures required for individual PMN substances indicate that personal protective equipment, including gloves and respirators, should be the first line of defense to protect workers.  These requirements do NOT follow occupational health and safety best practices” (emphasis in original). The comment then goes on to cite the ANSI/AIHA Z10 2005 standard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards as best practices.

This is an important perspective in the ongoing worker protection debate and the requests for comment deadline extension suggest that the unions are likely to become more engaged in this discussion.