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Posted: June 9, 2008
Nanotechnology worries push EU to seek full safety data for carbon
(Nanowerk News) Companies selling carbon and graphite will be required to submit full health and safety data for the substances under the European Union's stringent new chemical safety laws, amid concerns that their nanotechnology forms may be dangerous to people, E.U. officials said Monday.
Commission officials last week decided to include carbon and graphite among substances that require testing under the E.U.'s new chemical safety law - known as REACH.
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of common substances into special shapes that have properties such as strength or remarkable electrical conductivity. Products using the technology, ranging from sunscreen to sports equipment, are already sold across the world.
Some nanomaterials now on the market are being sold with the same chemical identification numbers as carbon and graphite, commission officials said. These nanomaterials would be exempt from safety testing if carbon and graphite remain exempt.
The problem is nanomaterials are made of substances that easily pass current tests for toxicity, but the unusual shapes of a nanoparticle could make it react in the human body in unpredictable, potentially harmful ways.
A study released last month found that a special kind of nanomaterial - carbon nanotubes - mimics the effect of cancer-causing asbestos in the lungs.
The impact of the decision on the industry is unclear, said Erwin Annys of the European Chemical Industry Council.
"It's touching all forms of carbon," he said. "A number of uses that have been known for some time are coming under pressure as well."
Commission officials said they will continue to study whether the normal forms of carbon and graphite could be exempted again from REACH.
"We will look into the issue of whether it is really possible at all to distinguish between normal carbon and its nanoforms," said one official.