The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $5 million, four-year grant to investigators led by Arizona State University to study the life cycle of nanomaterials. According to EPA’s description of the award, the project involves an interdisciplinary team of chemists, toxicologists, scientists, engineers, and social scientists to evaluate the trade-offs between intended function of nanomaterials in products and risks to humans and the environment across their life cycle from creation, through use and disposal. The description states that researchers will evaluate four product lines expected to have variable nanomaterial release rates (i.e., dispersed in liquids used in industrial manufacturing (e.g., polishing agents), dispersed in products (e.g., foods), embedded in composite polymers (e.g., thermoplastics, membranes for water filtration), and coated on the surfaces of flexible polymeric materials (e.g., textiles) using four high-volume nanomaterials (titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, nanosilver, and multi-wall carbon nanotubes) that exhibit properties unique from each other and properties similar to other emerging nanomaterials. The description states that the results are expected to:
- Reduce uncertainty in risks from nano-enabled products for the public, manufacturing communities, and regulatory agencies;
- Provide the framework for existing and future nano-enabled product designs that preserve commercial value while minimizing adverse environmental health and safety effects;
- Train a diverse group of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral scientists to work as a network and produce integrated research products; and
- Educate the public on the importance of the life cycle perspective for maximizing the benefits of nano-enabled products.