16th May 2021

Parliament wants tighter nano regulation

The European Parliament has called for the European Commission to tighten up how it deals with nanomaterials - materials less than a tenth of a micrometre in dimension, saying that while this cutting edge technology of the extremely small may promise great advances, there are also risks involved that European regulators must begin to consider.

On Friday (24 April), MEPs strongly backed a resolution 391 votes in favour, 3 against and 4 abstentions requesting that the EU executive evaluate the bloc's chemicals legislation - (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances or ‘Reach') be reviewed to consider simplified registration for nanomaterials manufactured or imported below one tonne,

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The Reach legislation currently only applies to amounts above one tonne. But Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter, the author of the resolution, argues that given the minute scale of nanomaterials, a volume threshold of one tonne becomes meaningless.

The resolution also called on the commission to consider all nanomaterials as new substances and produce chemical safety reports with exposure assessments for them.

The deputies also want the commission to evaluate whether worker protection legislation needs to cover exposure of employees to nanomaterials.

Meanwhile, the nanotech and chemicals industries warned against possible legislative duplication and hinted that legislation or resolutions such as that of Mr Schlyter was not scientifically rigorous.

Reach for Life, a Brussels-based organisation formed last year by chemical manufacturers Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL-IP to counter legislation it categorises as less based on sound science than on unsubstantiated scaremongering, said in response to the resolution that it "cautions against improper and conflicting legislation that could result in stunting a vital and burgeoning area for research in Europe."

Foundation Nanonet, which promotes the industry, echoed the message in a statement: "Science is crucial in protecting consumers and the environment which is sufficient reason to ensure that it is given proper consideration in the legislative process concerning nanotechnologies."

Mr Schlyter, who himself studied chemical engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm before becoming an MEP, told EUobserver that such a reaction was to be expected from industry-founded groups. "Far from not looking at the science of nanotechnology, it is the very lack of a strong body of scientific investigation into this very new realm that requires close scrutiny."

The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) however welcomed the MEPs' vote but went further and said that nanomaterials needed their own specific law covering the rapidly developing new field.

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