While George Gray, assistant administrator for EPA' Office of Research and Development, said nanotechnology has the potential to be a powerful tool for environmental cleanup, "[a]t the same time we must understand whether nanomaterials could negatively impact health or the environment."
"This research will help determine the viability of nanotechnology as a tool for protecting our environment," Gray said.
The nanotechnology grants were awarded through EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
To date, EPA says it has funded 65 grants for more than $22 million related to the environmental applications and/or implications of manufactured nanomaterials. In addition, EPA has awarded about $2.5 million for nanotechnology research to small businesses through its Small Business Innovation Research program.
Nanomaterials are created by working at the molecular level, atom by atom, and range in size from 1 to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is 80,000 times smaller than a human hair.
Because of their small size and unique properties, more research is needed to learn if nanoparticles in manufactured products can enter the human body, and if so, how long they remain. Similarly, researchers will study the fate and transport of nanoparticles in the environment.
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA has a program to review and assess new chemicals prior to their entry into commerce. The agency also says it is working with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a stewardship program that will allow EPA to gain a better understanding of the benefits and risks associated with nanomaterials.
For more information on the nanotechnology STAR grants, visit http://www.epa.gov/ncer/nano2005.