EPA Issues Significant New Use Rule For Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube

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The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final significant new use rule May 6 for a multi-walled carbon nanotube that would require manufacturers, importers, or processors of the chemical to follow manufacturing and use conditions already reviewed by EPA when it authorized the manufacture of the chemical (76 Fed. Reg. 26,186).

Under the significant new use rule, or SNUR, any chemical manufacturer, importer, or processor of the specific multi-walled carbon nanotube that seeks to make or use the chemical in a way that differs from those EPA already reviewed would have to notify the agency 90 days before doing so.

The reason, EPA's notice said, is that changes from the manufacturing and use scenario described by the original manufacturer could result in increased exposures.

SNURs are the agency's way of restricting the manufacturing conditions and uses of a new chemical to the specific conditions and uses it has already reviewed.

The premanufacture notice submitted by the manufacturer said the carbon nanotube will be used as an additive/filler for polymer composites and as support media for industrial catalysts, according to EPA.

Under Section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA reviews new chemicals before they can be made or imported into the United States. New chemicals are those that are not on the TSCA inventory of chemicals already made or imported into the United States.

Unreasonable Risks.

The 90-day notification period required by the SNUR would allow EPA to review any new use and determine whether it would pose an unreasonable risk to workers, the general public, or the environment, EPA said.

EPA proposed the SNUR Feb. 3, 2010 (34 CRR 141, 2/8/10).

The SNUR is unlikely to affect other carbon nanotube manufacturers, John Monica, an attorney with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, told BNA May 5. Monica manages a consortium of carbon nanotube manufacturers.

Under a policy EPA issued in 2008, the agency's presumption is that each carbon nanotube is a different new chemical subject to the agency's review, Monica said.

EPA announced the policy in an Oct. 31, 2008, Federal Register notice (32 CRR 1070, 11/10/08).

As a result, no other company will likely make the very specific multi-walled carbon nanotube covered by EPA's final SNUR, Monica said.

Processors Covered.

Companies processing or using the multi-walled carbon nanotube would need to ensure their workers use dermal and respiratory protections described in the worker protection provisions of Section 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Monica said.

The section requires full-face respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and clothing that covers any other exposed areas of the arms, legs, and torso (40 C.F.R. § 721.63).

The SNUR requires the use of NIOSH-approved full-face respirators with N100 cartridges.

Under TSCA, companies purchasing the multi-walled carbon nanotube should be alerted to this requirement, Monica said.

Buyers of a chemical substance with a confidential identity--as in this case--should ask the seller for certification that their intended use is not a significant new use, Monica said.

The SNUR exempts some uses of the multi-walled carbon nanotube, meaning a company using the chemical in the exempted manner would not be required to notify EPA.

Exempted uses include when the carbon nanotube has been fixed onto a surface or encapsulated within plastic.

By Pat Rizzuto

Request Environment & Energy Report