WASHINGTON — The National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson could get more work under legislation approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate.

WASHINGTON — The National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson could get more work under legislation approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate.

The bill, which passed 96-1, included a provision requiring the federal Food and Drug Administration to assess the health and safety of nanomaterials used in drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and other regulated products.

The research center near Pine Bluff is already equipped to conduct such scientific research, according to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who sponsored the provision.

“Its expertise, combined with its strong partnerships with researchers in government, the private sector and academia, makes it an ideal candidate to lead our nation’s nanotechnology health and safety studies,” Pryor said.

Pryor and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., had introduced legislation last year to authorize FDA to spend $25 million a year to assess nanomaterials used in drugs and other products. The proposal was incorporated into a broader FDA safety bill approved today.

FDA’s consolidated headquarters at White Oak, Md., could also conduct the scientific studies required under the legislation.

More than 1,300 consumer products use nanotechnology and the number is growing. As it becomes increasingly indispensable in our daily lives, it is essential that nanomaterials be fully assessed for any risks they may pose to safety, public health or the environment, Cardin said.

The nanotechnology provision is one part of the bill that also renews the authority of the FDA to collect user fees from companies to review their new medications and medical devices.