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Court Revokes EPA Approval of Certain Nanosilver Products

A U.S. federal appeals court in California recently revoked the Environmental Protection Agency’s May 2015 conditional approval of a nanosilver product used as an anti-microbial agent in a broad range of consumer applications, including various household, office, plastic and textile products such as clothing, cell phones, computers and office supplies. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District ruled that the EPA had failed to show that its conditional approval of the nanosilver product was in the public interest. The lawsuit was brought by the National Resources Defense Council, a New York-based non-profit environmental group founded in 1970, as well as the Center for Food Safety and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which governs the sale, use and distribution of pesticides in the United States, generally requires pesticides to be registered with the EPA before being sold or distributed. The EPA may grant a temporary, conditional registration if it first determines that use of a pesticide is in the public interest. While the court held that substantial evidence supported the EPA’s findings that the nanosilver product under consideration has lower application and mobility rates than conventional silver pesticides, it also determined that substantial evidence did not support the agency’s finding that use of this product is in the public interest because it has the potential to reduce the amount of silver released into the environment.

The court held that the EPA’s finding was based on two unsubstantiated assumptions: (1) that current users of conventional silver pesticides would replace those pesticides with the nanosilver product under consideration; and (2) that the nanosilver product under consideration would not be incorporated into new products to the extent that such incorporation would actually increase the amount of silver released into the environment.

The National Resources Defense Council described the court decision as “an amazing victory for public health” that forces the EPA to take a closer look at the potential of the nanosilver product to cause harm. The association states that nanosilver is known to be highly toxic to aquatic life and may also be hazardous to humans.

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