In the June 24, 2009 federal register, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two proposed Significant New Use Rules (SNUR) under Section 5(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for multi-walled and single walled carbon nanotubes. The SNURs followed up on the EPA's prior September 2008 consent orders entered into with Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. (Swan) for two of its Elicarb carbon nanotube products.
Under TSCA, the prior September 2008 consent orders were only binding on Swan. "Consequently, after signing a Section 5(e) Consent Order, EPA generally promulgates a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that mimics the Consent Order to bind all other manufacturers and processors to the terms and conditions contained in the Consent Order. The SNUR requires that manufacturers, importers and processors of certain substances notify EPA at least 90 days before beginning any activity that EPA has designated as a "significant new use. These new use designations are typically those activities prohibited by the Section 5(e) Consent Order."
Under the terms of the Septmeber 2008 consent orders which are incorporated into the new proposed SNURs, significant new uses of multi-walled and singled-walled carbon nanotubes are deemed to occur when employees do not “use gloves impervious to nanoscale particles and chemical protective clothing;” and/or fail to “use a NIOSH-approved full-face respirator with an N-100 cartridge while exposed by inhalation in the work area.”
Thus, the new proposed SNURs require these same conditions.
Manufacturers should also be aware that the EPA considers carbon nanotubes new chemical substances requiring full PMN notice, registration, and approval under Section 5 of TSCA, and has initiated at least one recent enforcement action against a carbon nanotube manufacturer who has failed to properly register its products.