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Posted: Oct 25, 2012
NGOs respond to European Commission's second regulatory review of nanomaterials
(Nanowerk News) The European Environmental Bureau has joined together with a broad coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumer organizations and trade unions to express grave concerns about the conclusions of the second regulatory review of nanomaterials, published by the European Commission on October 3rd.
On October 23rd, in a letter sent to the European Commission (pdf), the EEB and partner NGOs raise major concerns about the inconsistencies of the communication, which prioritizes industry interests rather than protecting human health and environment.
“With this Communication, the Commission has failed to apply the precautionary principle. On one hand the a 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 European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
For example, the Commission failed to take into account recent conclusions from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and other reliable studies  recognizing the possible carcinogenicity of certain nanomaterials such as titanium dioxide and carbon black. Ignoring these studies lead the Commission to incorrectly consider these substances as harmless.
The NGO coalition acknowledges that existing information gathering schemes are sub-standard. However the Commission has failed to use the opportunity presented by this 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.
Finally, the Commission’s regulatory review completely ignores loopholes that undermine the capabilities of REACH, considering nanosubstances similar to normal substances.
“The clearest proof that REACH is not addressing the issue of nano substances is the lack of nano substances registered as such. This despite the fact that there are many more on the market. Very few nanomaterials have been registered in their own right, as it is often claimed that they are no different from the conventional chemicals.” She added.
Furthermore, the review ignores the call by several EU Member States, NGOs and the European Parliament to consider modifying the regulation to close those loopholes.
Earlier this year, the EEB supported the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)’s proposal for adoption of a ‘Nano patch’ together with workers’ organizations, consumers and environmental NGOs, as well as by nine EU Member States to close the loopholes in REACH. This proposal called on the Commission to propose and publish this “nano patch” regulation by June 2012. The Commission chose to ignore those calls, refusing to even consider this option in its regulatory review.
“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” concludes Tatiana Santos.
 Bourdon, JA (2012) et al. Carbon black nanoparticle instillation induces sustained inflammation and genotoxicity in mouse lung and liver. http://www.particleandfibretoxicology.com/content/9/1/5
Ghosh et al. (2010) Genotoxicity of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles at two trophic levels: Plant and human lymphocytes.