CPSC's FY 2016 Budget Request Would Create Center for Consumer Product Applications and Safety Implications of Nanotechnology

 The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request includes funding to establish a Center for Consumer Product Applications and Safety Implications of Nanotechnology (CPASION), which is intended “to develop robust methods in identifying and characterizing nanomaterials in consumer products; to understand their effects on human exposure; and to develop scientists to advance nanomaterials in consumer product safety research.”  CPSC recommends a $5 million increase in its existing nanotechnology budget, currently $2 million annually, to establish CPASION.  The budget request states that CPASION “will be a consortium of scientists focused on supporting the CPSC’s unique mission through research directed at developing robust methods to quantify and characterize the presence, release, and mechanisms of consumer exposure to nanomaterials from consumer products.”  CPASION will also be a resource for manufacturers and distributors of nano-enabled products, and will develop approaches to providing information on the safe use of nanotechnology in consumer products.  According to the budget request, to establish CPASION, CPSC would enter into a five-year interagency agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF), modeled on a similarly sized, existing NSF-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research center studying nanotechnology implications.

EPA and CPSC Collaborating on Nanomaterial Research

On December 11, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a research collaboration intended to assess potential impacts of nanomaterials on people’s health and the environment.  According to EPA’s press release, the research is part of a “larger international effort” that includes:

  • Identifying, characterizing and quantifying the origins of nanomaterials;
  • Studying biological processes affected by nanomaterials that could influence risk;
  • Determining how nanomaterials interact with complex systems in the human body and the environment;
  • Involving industry to develop sustainable manufacturing processes; and
  • Sharing knowledge through innovative online applications that allow for rapid feedback and accelerated research progress.

The press release states that CPSC will use the results of the research to inform:

  • Protocol development to assess the potential release of nanomaterials from consumer products;
  • Credible rules for consumer product testing to evaluate exposure; and
  • Determination of the potential public health impacts of nanomaterial used in consumer products.


EPA Announces Nanotechnology Research Awards

On February 17, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it awarded $5.5 million to three consortia to support innovative research on nanotechnology. EPA states that, in collaboration with the United Kingdom's (UK) Natural Environment Research Council, it is leading this scientific research effort to understand better the potential risks to people’s health and the environment. The grants EPA awarded are intended to help researchers determine whether certain nanomaterials can leach out of products such as paints, plastics, and fabrics when they are used or disposed of and whether they could become toxic to people and the environment.  According to EPA, the U.S. Consumer Product  Safety Commission (CPSC) has also contributed $500,000 through a new research partnership between the two agencies.  Grant awards were made to three consortia consisting of researchers from the U.S. and the UK Each U.S. team of researchers received $2 million from EPA and CPSC, for a total of $6 million. Each UK team will also receive $2 million from the UK agencies, resulting in a grand total of $12 million to conduct the research.

CPSC Holds Public Hearing on CPSC Agenda, Priorities, and Strategic Plan for FY 2011

On August 25, 2009, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) held a public hearing to receive comments about its agenda and priorities for CPSC during fiscal year (FY) 2011, which begins October 1, 2010, and about its current strategic plan. CPSC invited participation by members of the public, and representatives from the Consumers Union, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), Thermo Fisher Scientific, National Association of State Fire Marshals, International Sleep Products Association, Kids in Danger, and American Apparel & Footwear Association testified. Don Mays, Consumers Union, and David Rejeski, PEN, addressed CPSC’s goals concerning nanomaterials.

PEN Releases Report on the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Nanotechnology

 On August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars released its latest nanotechnology report, The Consumer Products Safety Commission and Nanotechnology, written by Dr. E. Marla Felcher. Dr. Felcher states that “[a] rapid increase in both the number and complexity of [nanotechnology-enabled consumer] products places significant responsibility on [the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)] to take the lead in regulating this new technology, but the agency is not in a position to do so.” After providing a brief history of the CPSC, Dr. Felcher asserts that the agency “has never lived up to its expectations,” and highlights five weaknesses in CPSC’s oversight capacity as exemplifying why CPSC is unable “to oversee the safety of complex, high-tech products made using nanotechnology”:

  1. Its data collection system is not nano ready;
  2. It has limited ability to inform the public about health hazards associated with nanotechnology products;
  3. It has limited ability to ensure that recalled products are removed from store shelves;
  4. It lacks sufficient enforcement personnel to identify manufacturers that fail to report nanotechnology product hazards; and
  5. It does not have sufficient authority to promulgate mandatory safety standards for nanotechnology products.