Thursday, June 8, 2006

Samsung, Silver ions and NACWA and TriTAC

The EPA’s Office of Enforcement Compliance and Assistance either has not directed the Office of Pesticides on what steps EPA need to be taken regarding silver ions in Samsung Washers or they have and the EPA will announce soon.

This was precipitated by a request by NACWA (National Association of Clean Water Agencies) [point person seems to be Norman LeBlanc]; attached is a PDF from their office, see p 10] and TriTAC (a California group with similar charge; point person seems to be Phil Bobel; attached is their letter to EPA and EPA’s response as well).

NACWA calls for life cycle analysis and sent the complaint to its Emerging Contaminants Workgroup. Tri-TAC complains of increasing silver concentrations at publicly owned treatment works though they remarks are not addressing nanoparticles per se. You have a scan of the response by the Director of the Office of Pesticides to Chuck Weir of Tri-TAC AND importantly a follow-up letter from Tobi Jones who says they are now taking a second look at their original decision to treat the Samsung washers as a device. Also, note that this regulatory effort comes under FIFRA (see below).

The product is SilverCare advertised as nano in Australia and not so in the USA. Samsung’s SilverCare washing machines are being sold of Loew’s and Best Buy here and abroad (http://www.samsung.com/au/products/washingmachines/frontloading/j1045av.asp and at this site I recommend you download the brochure) injects silver ions into the wash cycle to kill bacteria without the need for hot water or bleach. Hence, 92 percent less energy used and effluents associated with commercial bleach products are reduced as well. Hence, there is a comparative risk analysis that needs to be done.

Samsung claims the silver ions will quickly bind to organic matter and become inactive in waste. However, current treatment would remove only 50 to 90 percent of the silver. The rest remains in sludge which is commonly placed on farm land or in landfills according to Bobel.

Samsung claims to have completed five toxicity studies on water fleas, fish and earthworms and claims “minimal risk to the environment.”

Phibbs reported earlier the machine was classified as a pesticide device and not a pesticide per se. However, the petitioners want is classified as a co-pack meaning it would be both a pesticide and a pesticide device. That means the studies and tests required for marketing a new pesticide under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) would need to be done. As a pesticide device there are some labeling, recordkeeping and other requirements but much less onerous than as a pesticide.

And very importantly, Maynard has already suggested that it is unclear whether the silver ions are intentionally engineered nanoparticles with any special properties that might trigger concerns noted above. The process in the washer calls for nano-shaving two silver plates and no one I know has any idea what this means and no one seems certain this has anything to do with nano.

Finally silver ions are used in brooms, food storage containers, drywall and point for surfaces to reduce mold, curtain coatings in hospitals, wound treatments, and coating for some surgical tools. LG Electronics and Daewoo are selling silver-lines refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. And the sports industry (Adidas, Polartec, Brooks Sports, ARC Outdoors) has and are ready to mount silver particles as a disinfectant for clothing. Even a Yoga company, Plank, is selling silver particles as a disinfectant in their Cor soap.

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