NRDC Victory: Court Revokes Nanosilver Registration

NRDC won a very important legal victory today! We successfully challenged the EPA Pesticide Office's approval of an antimicrobial nanosilver pesticide that can be incorporated into plastics and fabrics. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that the EPA had failed to show that its conditional approval of the product “Nanosilva” was in the public’s interest, and therefore revoked the approval of the toxic nanomaterial (read the court decision). 

The pesticide doesn’t serve any public health purpose. It was approved because it purportedly reduces staining and odors in consumer products by killing bacteria and mold.  It can be incorporated into basically any consumer product, except those approved for food-contact uses. It can be in: clothing, children’s toys, kitchen appliances and housewares (e.g., dish drainers, place mats, scrub brushes, blenders, upholstery), building materials (e.g., flooring, siding, artificial turf), bathroom fixtures and accessories (e.g., toilets, showers, tubs, shower curtains), personal care products (e.g., combs, razors, brushes), sporting goods, office supplies, and electronics. 

The fundamental problem is that EPA approved this pesticide using the conditional registration loophole, without having first completed all of the health and safety studies required by law. That puts dangerous chemicals into our environment and homes before they have been fully tested, for no good reason. As the court decision warns, "Nanosilver, due to its much smaller particle size, can have significantly different properties than conventional silver. These different properties provide new benefits and opportunities to industry. But with these new benefits come new risks."

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) governs the sale, use, and distribution of pesticides, and requires that pesticides must be registered with the EPA before being sold or distributed. It allows the EPA to grant a temporary, conditional registration only if EPA first determines that use of a pesticide is in the public interest. In this case NRDC, the Center for Food Safety, and the International Center for Technology Assessment (the Petitioners) opposed EPA’s conditional registration of the nanosilver pesticide (NSPW-L30SS, manufactured by Nanosilva LLC).

This court decision should be seen by the EPA Pesticide Office as a loud warning to stop its abuse of this registration loophole, and end its current practice of ushering in over half the pesticides onto market as conditional registrations. 

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Federal Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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