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Colipa scientist calls for common ‘nanomaterial’ definition

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Consumer protection

Dr Gerald Renner from Colipa has called for a common definition of the term ‘nanomaterial’ at a conference in Brussels on regulation of nanotechnology.

Leading figures from industry, regulators and consumer groups gathered at the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) nanotechnology conference to discuss safety concerns, consumer attitudes and regulation.

Need for a definition

Talking at the conference about what regulatory moves remain to be taken, Colipa’s Director of Science and Research Dr Gerald Renner said a common definition of ‘nanomaterial’ needs to be agreed upon and then applied with common sense.

Currently different definitions exist in different parts of the world causing confusion for companies operating in a global marketplace.

Renner said that broad definitions are around but warned that they are not necessarily useful or practical to achieve a regulatory objective in a specific sector.

Safety debate

The trade body representative also discussed safety issues and measures currently in place in Europe to protect the consumer.

He said the transition from ‘not knowing’ to ‘knowing a lot’ has happened in many applications for nanotechnology. Renner said that in cosmetics, it is now known which nanomaterials are used, the characteristics of those materials and their safety profile.

While Renner said all nanomaterials used in cosmetics have undergone a full safety assessment, representatives of consumer groups remain unconvinced about the safety credentials of nanomaterials.

Sue Davis, chief policy officer at UK consumer advocacy group Which?, said serious safety concerns surround the use of certain nanomaterials.

Of particular concern to Which? are fullerenes and nanosilver, which Renner said were used ‘sporadically’ in cosmetics.

Davis said fullerenes are used in anti-ageing creams despite safety concerns while nano-silver are found in toothpastes in spite of potential toxicity.

Accusations of scaremongering

Meanwhile, Robert Madelin, director-general at the European Commission’s health and consumer affairs directorate, hit out at lobby groups fuelling consumer fear of nanotechnology.

Madelin said it was irresponsible to use panic to attract attention. The senior health official also said conflicting messages from NGOs, industry and academia are feeding public confusion.

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