Commission opts for a case by case safety approach on emerging technology.
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
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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