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Tracy Hester Discusses the Environmental Impact of Nanotechnology

September 8, 2006

HOUSTON (September 8, 2006) –In an effort to assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) exploration of legal issues raised by the potential environmental impacts of nanomaterials, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP environmental partner Tracy Hester, who practices in the Houston office, addressed senior-level staffers at a workshop sponsored by EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the Reagan International Trade Center July 11 and 12.
Hester’s presentation, "A Review of Regulations, Positions, Policies and Actions Related to Nanotechnology General Federal Regulatory Overview," provided an in-depth analysis how the creation and disposal of nanoscale wastes might pose novel legal issues under the federal Superfund statute and EPA hazardous waste regulations.  Nanotechnology explores the unexpected – and valuable - properties of materials intentionally manufactured with least one dimension between 1 to 100 nanometers.    “Nanotechnology will open up several different industries to fundamental change,” Hester said.  “From the tiniest of circuits to the finest of filters, technologies made with nanomaterials are already beginning to transform a number of industries from manufacturing to health care.”

In addition to providing a brief description of the nanotechnology industry and what it entails, Hester examined some of the impressive growth trends spurring the industry.  “By 2020, the market for carbon nanotubes alone is projected to be around $9 billion,” said Hester.  “With more than 270 consumer products already marketed as containing nanomaterials, several agencies are examining how their existing regulations will apply to the novel materials and properties made possible by nanotechnology,” Hester added.

Hester also discussed how environmental laws may pose challenges for facilities that generate or manage nanoscale materials.  He spoke at length about the importance of requiring appropriate permits for handling nanoscale waste materials, as well as the importance of assuring that regulation of the nanotechnology industry be sustainable and focus on actual risks.  “With environmental responsibility currently occupying the forefront of public concern, ensuring the safety and environmental sensitivity of nanomaterials is essential to the success of nanotechnology,” said Hester.