This blog has regularly addressed the quandary of whether existing regulatory laws are sufficient to deal with the risks of the marketing and use of nanomaterials or if additional legal frameworks are necessary. Three European environmental groups have determined that additional safeguards are indeed required.
On November 13, 2012, the Geneva-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), and London-based ClientEarth proposed a draft EU regulation in response to a European Commission report published in October 2012, Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials. The groups argued that the Commission insufficiently addressed problems with the European Union’s REACH.
The Commission had concluded that nanomaterials did not require separate EU regulations, declaring that REACH provided the “best possible framework for the risk management of nanomaterials when they occur as substances and mixtures.” (High Time to Act: A Proposal for a “Nano Patch” for EU Regulation, at 3).
Attorneys for the environmental groups attacked REACH’s inherent loopholes and the lack of safety assessment before nanomaterials are placed on the market – two substantial issues whose appraisal was glaringly absent in the Commission’s Regulatory Review.
Specifically, the groups argued that REACH provided regulators and the public with little to no information regarding the dangers and risk management of nanomaterials. The environmental groups’ proposed “nano patch” on REACH aims to close these loopholes by employing the following mechanisms:
· Documenting the hazards and risks in all relevant regulatory frameworks
· Registering the nanomaterials and requiring operators to report the quantities of substances and their uses in the produced, distributed or imported nanoform
· Labeling nanomaterials found in consumer products, including adding the suffix “nano” to the name of the ingredient
Some may find the proposed “nano patch” to be a bit oppressive and chilling to the progression of nanotechnology, but we just don’t know enough yet about the environmental and health effects of public consumption of nanomaterials. Regulation of some degree – but what degree – is clearly called for. And while the United States has been the leader in some areas of regulation, it appears that for the time being, the EU may be the frontrunner in the nanontechnology regulatory race. Perhaps the U.S. should lace up and catch up.
The draft EU regulation from the environmental groups – High Time to Act: A Proposal for a “Nano Patch” for EU Regulation – is available at: