The EPA decided last month to approve the "pre-manufacture" of carbon nanotubes, which are hollow tubes made of carbon atoms and potentially can be used in flat-screen televisions, clear coatings and fuel cells. The tubes, like other nanomaterials, are only a few ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair.
Jim Willis, who directs the EPA's chemical control division in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, said he could not reveal the name of the company that received approval for the new technology or describe how that technology might be marketed. He added, however, that the EPA reserved the right to review the product again if the company ultimately decides to bring it to market.
Nanomaterials are already on the market in cosmetics, clothing and other products, but these items do not fall under the EPA's regulatory domain. EPA officials judge applications subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA), a law dating from the mid- 1970s that applies to chemicals.
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