EPA Forced to Revoke Approval of Toxic Nanosilver Pesticide


EPA’s conditional approval of an antimicrobial nanosilver pesticide was revoked last week, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that the agency had failed to show that its approval was in the public interest. Nanosilva, as the product is called, was approved for incorporation into plastics and fabrics to reduce staining and odors by killing bacteria and mold.

“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,” explains the NRDC. “That puts dangerous chemicals into our environment and homes before they have been fully tested, for no good reason.”

The court’s decision is the first of its kind to address EPA’s responsibilities with regards to conditional registrations of pesticides. The court noted in its opinion that EPA “assumed, without citing evidence, that [Nanosilva] would be used enough by some, but not too much by others, to reduce the amount of silver released into the environment,” an assumption that did not offer sufficient proof, in the court’s opinion, that its approval was beneficial.

“The court’s decision recognizes the need for EPA to ensure that any pesticide approvals are in the public interest and in so doing protect our communities and environment,” said Sylvia Wu, staff attorney for Center for Food Safety (CFS) and counsel in the case.

The court’s decision hinged on the fact that nanotechnology is relatively new, and nanomaterials such as nanosilver may present unknown risks to human health and the environment due to the smaller size of the particles. The court noted in its decision that EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel had found that nanomaterials can enter “specific tissues, cell membranes or inside cells.”

The pesticide, which was first approved in 2015, was intended to be incorporated into a large variety of consumer products including but not limited to clothing, children’s toys, and plastics in personal care products like razors.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco