Law and innovation in the context of nanomaterials: Barriers to sustainable development?

(Nanowerk News) Nanomaterials are associated with far-reaching potentials for sustainable development. At the same time harmful effects on human health and the environment have been shown in relation to individual nanoscale substances and exposure scenarios. Against this background there is a particular need to examine in how far the (EC) Regulation no. 1907/2006 (REACh) – which provides the legal framework for all chemical substances manufactured in the European Economic Area or imported into it – creates adequate incentives so that actors from trade and industry develop innovations for sustainability through nanomaterials.
A recent study ("Law and innovation in the context of nanomaterials: Barriers to sustainable development?", pdf) by Julian Schenten and Martin Führ in elni Review presents the results of an empirical study which comprise a company survey, telephone interviews as well as an expert workshop each performed with companies that manufacture and/or use nanomaterials and are based in Germany.
Besides the issues of registering for REACh and carrying out safety assessments, the main focus of interest was on the relationships between substance risks and innovation and between REACh and innovation. Subsequently, the contribution compares the presented results with the outcome of a study carried out for the European Commission on the innovative effects of REACh on emerging technologies.
The main findings of the examination show that REACh apparently does not offer sufficient incentives to register nanomaterials and to apply nano-specific safety assessment procedures. In addition, while REACh as a general substance law also covers nanomaterials, to date these substances have not been addressed by specific provisions. This results in uncertainties in the interpretation of legal concepts and obligations. This legal uncertainty robs companies of their planning confidence and thus hampers innovations which could make promising contributions to a sustainable development.
Finally, based on the findings and where the data permit, this paper draws some preliminary conclusions for a possible adaptation of the legal framework for nanomaterials.
Source: Sonderforschungsgruppe Institutionenanalyse (sofia)
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