Earlier in the month the scientific and technical arm of the EC announced it was carrying out a second review on nanomaterials, alongside the Joint Research Centre and other Commission Directorates-Generals in a bid to improve EU law to ensure the safe use of nanotechnology.
It ruled that it would ensure assessments be carried out on a case-by-case approach, and that the cosmetics industry, although having used safe levels for years, had yet to deal with wider regulation.
“Nanomaterials require a risk assessment, which should be performed on a case-by-case basis, using pertinent information. Current risk assessment methods are applicable, even if work on particular aspects of risk assessment is still required."
On the back of this, the EEB and partnering NGOs sent a letter to the Commission, listing their concerns on what they refer to as ‘inconsistencies of the communication, which prioritizes industry interests rather than protecting human health and environment.’
"On one hand the staff working paper acknowledged the existence of possible risks due to exposure to nanomaterials, yet now the Communication is using the existing uncertainties to assume that no data means no harm and is a license to do nothing" says Tatiana Santos, senior policy officer on nanomaterials and chemicals for the EEB.
The senior policy officer then goes on to argue that the Commission 'failed to take into account recent conclusions from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and other studies on the possible carcinogenicity of certain nanomaterials such as titanium dioxide (such as UV-filters in sun creams and anti-odor textiles)'.
“Ignoring these studies lead the Commission to incorrectly consider these substances as harmless,” he warns.
Call for community-wide inventory
Although the coalition goes on to acknowledge that existing information gathering schemes are sub-standard, it reckons the Commission failed to use the opportunity presented by the review to propose the establishment of a community-wide inventory.
"Such an inventory is the only solution which would provide satisfactory information and avoid the proliferation of national schemes which risk duplication and may not allow all European citizens the same access to information for the nano products which they are exposed to. Not all European countries have or are planning to have a National register," explains Santos.
Lastly, the letter accuses the review as ignoring a call by several EU Member States, NGOs and the European Parliament to consider modifying regulation to close certain loopholes earlier in the year.
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)'s allegedly proposed for adoption a 'Nano patch' together with workers' organizations and nine EU Member States to close the loopholes in REACH, calling on the Commission to propose and publish the regulation by June 2012, of which did not appear in the review for reasons unknown to this publication.
"The European Commission is losing the leadership on nano. We cannot support innovation whilst disregarding the protection of human health and environment. Without the citizens support, the nano future is condemned," santos concludes.