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Jennifer Sass’s Blog

NRDC files lawsuit blocking untested nanosilver pesticide from clothing

Jennifer Sass

Posted January 26, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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Today we filed a federal lawsuit to block nanosilver, a potent antimicrobial pesticide, from market access.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conditionally registered nanosilver for use in textiles including such things as clothing, baby blankets, and pillow cases.

The "conditional" part of the registration means that EPA does not have all the legally required toxicity data, but is letting the pesticide on the market anyway, on the "condition" that the manufacturer, HeiQ, provide it sometime over the next four years. Four years! (More on the registration process from my colleague Mae Wu here)

Ironically, a report of the National Academies just yesterday found that, "Despite extensive investment in nanotechnology and increasing commercialization over the last decade, insufficient understanding remains about the environmental, health, and safety aspects of nanomaterials."

Silver, a well-recognized antimicrobial, is highly toxic and kills both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Nanosilver is engineered from silver and marketed as an even stronger antimicrobial than silver. Because of its smaller size, nanosilver penetrates organs and tissues in the body that larger forms of silver cannot reach, like the brain, lung, and testes. That can't be good!

Unfortunately, while HeiQ came to EPA to have its product registered, other nanosilver manufacturers have not. The unregulated and untested use of nanosilver in such products as food storage containers and hair dryers continues to grow, despite potential dangerous health effects.

What can you do? Think twice before you purchase any products with germ-fighting or antimicrobial claims. No one needs chemical-impregnated clothing. Soap and water is all the germ-fighting we need.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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