New legislation dedicated to nanotechnology is not needed, the European Commission has concluded in a regulatory review published today (3 October). The diverse nature of the nanomaterials created by this emerging technology does not merit a one-size-fits-all approach, the review said.
“Rather than putting all nanomaterials in one basket, a case-by-case approach to risk assessment should be applied, using strategies based on indications of potential risks, either in terms of exposure or hazard,” the Commission said in a statement. The communication, which responds to a 2009 demand by the European Parliament, was jointly presented by European Commissioners Antonio Tajani, Janez Potočnik, John Dalli, and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
MEPs and other campaign groups have raised alarm that the emerging technology, which produces materials on a scale of 1 to 100 nanometres, are falling into an unregulated gap. Because of their small size and scale of production they are not covered under the EU’s mandatory chemical registration scheme REACH.
“It is frustrating that the Commission is dismissing any legislative changes to deal with nanomaterials that fall under the EU’s chemical legislation (REACH) even though it acknowledges that companies have failed to specifically address safe use of nanomaterials under REACH,” said Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter following the report’s publication.
“The Commission has dodged the key issue by comparing nanomaterials with normal substances on the sole basis that not all nanomaterials may be toxic,” he added. “It is highly misleading to suggest that the generic rules of REACH, designed for normal substances, are appropriate for nanomaterials, and contradictory to the calls for a case-by-case approach for the risk assessment of nanomaterials.”
Last year the Commission came out with a long-awaited definition of nanomaterials, but this has been criticised by campaigners as being too vague. Some member states such as France and Denmark have national legislation on nanomaterials. In July ten member states called for an EU nanomaterial register or a market surveillance instrument.
BEUC, the European consumers organisation, also criticised the report. “As with any other chemical, the ‘no data, no market’ rule should also apply to nanomaterials,” said BEUC director-general Monique Goyens. “It is a cause for concern that manufacturers can continue to put a product on the market when its safety has not been properly proven. It seems that once again consumers and the environment have lost out against innovation and economic growth.”
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