M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 9

The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act: A Model for Nanomaterials Regulation?

Jennifer Nash

2012

Abstract

Nanomaterials exemplify a new class of emerging technologies that have significant economic and social value, pose uncertain health and environmental risks, and are entering the marketplace at a rapid pace. Effective regimes for regulating emerging technologies generate information about known or suspected hazards and draw on private sector expertise to guide managers’ behavior toward risk reduction, even in the absence of clear evidence of harm. This paper considers the extent to which the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) accomplishes those objectives. It offers the approach of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) as a possible supplement to TSCA, filling gaps in agency knowledge and private sector capacities. TURA is notable for its focus on chemicals use and hazard and its emphasis on strengthening firms’ internal management systems. Given the current deadlock in Congressional efforts to modernize federal laws such as TSCA, the role of state laws like TURA merit attention. Absent definitive information about risk, a governance strategy that generates information and focuses management attention on reducing hazards is worth considering.

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