European Commission published this week a Communication on the Second Regulatory Review of Nanomaterials, which announces among others its plans to change EU law so that it assures the safety of the use of nanomaterials.
Nanomaterials have a very small particle size (1 nanometer is 10.000x smaller than the diameter of a human hair), which often influences their various properties. Nowadays, many nanomaterials are used in consumer products, e.g., UV-filters in sun creams or anti-odour textiles and consumers and their representatives would like to have more information on the possible influence of the use of these materials on consumers' safety and health. Often more research is needed to estimate such an influence. However, currently products containing nanomaterials are already on the market, which bodes a question whether consumer safety against their use is properly guaranteed. While the EU underlines the breakthrough possibility of the use of nanomaterials (Nanomaterials: case by case safety approach for breakthrough technology), consumer organisations like BEUC worry that consumers' safety is being compromised (EU nanotechnology plan: tiny focus on consumer protection). BEUC calls upon the European institutions to increase the transparency of information about the use of nanomaterials in consumer products and to improve pre-market testing.
"As with any other chemical, the ‘no data, no market’ rule should also apply to nanomaterials. It is a cause for concern that manufacturers can continue to put a product on the market whose safety has not been properly proven. It seems that once again consumers and the environment have lost out against innovation and economic growth." said Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organisation.
It remains to be seen what obligations will the European institutions place on businesses using nanomaterials. So far, it has been mentioned that case-by-case approach to risk assessment should be applied, since nanomaterials and their use differ greatly. The Commission is working on how to formulate rules on the detection, measurement and monitoring methods for nanomaterials. Some of the plans involve setting up a web platform with references to information sources, as well as conducting an impact assessment. See more on nanotechnology here.