Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)

Parliament backs NGOs calls for tighter controls on nanotechnology

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March saw the European Parliament's Environment Committee vote on controls of nanomaterials. The results supported almost all key issues raised by NGOs.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens, organizations, have been a prominant force behind the push for stricter controls. They were extremely pleased with the results of the vote.

The Parliamentary vote runs contrary to the European Commission's belief that nanomaterials are sufficiently covered by existing legislation and better implementation alone could effectively oversee this emerging technology.

The EEB advocate that, with an ever increasing use of nanotechnology, a stringent framework must be in place from the beginning. This will ensure that the use and release micromaterials into the environment does not adversely affect human health or the environment. George Kimbrell of the International Center for Technology Assessment said, 'Since there is currently no government oversight and no labelling requirements for nano-products anywhere in the world, no one knows when they are exposed to potential nanotech risks and no one is monitoring for potential health or environmental harm.'

EEB's key demands for the regulation of nanotechnologies are:

- Existing legislation should be reviewed immediately.

- Size definition of nanomaterials should be more flexible.

- All nano-containing products placed on the market (after prior registration and authorisation) should be labeled for identification and traceability purposes.

- Labeled products should be included in an EU-wide inventory that is available to the public.

- The REACH principle of 'no data, no market' should be immediately and fully implemented.

- Nanomaterials should be addressed explicitly within the scope of REACH and legislation currently under revision, such as the Novel Food Regulation, the Provision of Food Information to Consumers Regulation and the Cosmetics Directive. Additional legislation that should be prioritised for review includes laws on workers’ protection, air quality, water quality and waste.

Nearly all of EEB’s clauses were supported in the Parliamentary vote, with the exception of the call for prior registration of labeled products. These sentiments revealed by the Parliament are inline with their voting in early March on the Novel Food Regulation. Here, MEPs voted for definition, labeling and specific risk assessments for nano-containing foods, reaffirming the need for a regulatory approach based on precaution and producer responsibility.

At the beginning of April, EEB will present its position on the safe and responsible governance of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials at a stakeholder conference - Working and Living with Nanotechnology - in the European Parliament.

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