Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), claims about the effectiveness of a pesticide product must be tested and verified by the EPA to protect the public. Products that successfully pass EPA’s testing are then registered and given an EPA number, providing the public with a means of affirming the accuracy of the claims made on the required product label. Without testing and registration, products making pesticide-related claims cannot be legally sold in the United States.
On March 31, an Englewood, New Jersey company was issued a stop sale order by the EPA for its plastic food storage containers which the EPA said the company claimed had the ability to “reduce the growth of mold, fungus and bacteria,” and that the containers could allow foods to stay fresh as much as three times longer than typical food storage containers. What made them so special, according to the product labels, was the fact that they contained nanoparticles of silver or nanosilver.
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In late 2013, the EPA inspected the company’s facility and was told by a company representative that the company produced products containing nanosilver. The products’ descriptions also contained information about the benefits of nanosilver as a means of inhibiting the growth of bacteria and mold and the company’s web site provides descriptions of how nanosilver particles accomplish this feat.
This lesson serves two purposes:
- To remind manufacturers of pesticide products about the requirements of FIFRA which, if ignored, can result in considerable penalties, and
- To remind the purchasing public that pesticide product claims that have not been verified by the EPA should not be taken at face value and that such products that lack and EPA number on the label are not in compliance with federal regulations designed to protect human health and the environment.
Another aspect is that of nanotechnology in general, which the EPA and several other federal agencies have only just begun to research and asses to determine both the effectiveness and the safety of products containing nanoparticles.
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Nanotechnology as a whole is the science of the very small, with a nanometer being 100,000 times smaller than a hair. The uses of these extremely small nanomaterials are increasing across many industries and EPA is now studying how they react in the environment and what toxicity concerns exist, concentrations of concern, and what might be done to change nanomaterials’ properties and/or mitigate their impact in environmental and biological systems.
Nanosilver is just one of the many type of nanomaterials used in manufacturing, but its potential for use as a disinfectant in many applications is being actively investigated to assess how it has been and is being used and any potential benefits and problems. In a 2012 report titled, “Nanomaterial Case Study: Nanoscale Silver in Disinfectant Spray”, the EPA took a step toward gathering information about nanosilver and “describe what is known and unknown about (nanosilver) … as part of a process to identify and prioritize scientific and technical information to support long-term assessment efforts.”
Meanwhile, any assertions that a product has pesticidal properties, whether from nanosilver or any other ingredient, requires manufacturers to comply with FIFRA , including registering the facility and the products, undergoing testing, and meeting labeling and other requirements, prior to offering a pesticide product for sale.