European Trade Union says Precaution needed for Nanomaterials

Today, the headline blares to the world: "The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) adopted a first resolution on nanotechnologies and nanomaterials at its recent Executive Committee meeting. The key demand: the precautionary principle must apply to nanotechnologies.". What does this mean? ETUC identifies some gaping regulatory loopholes that nanomaterials would fall through under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), the progressive, precautionary European chemical policy that entered into force in June 2007.

REACH loophole #1: There is no clear guidance for how to evaluate nanomaterials under REACH. ETUC calls for the "no data, no market" principle of REACH to apply to nanomaterials, and we agree!

REACH loophole #2: Materials manufactured or imported under 1 metric tonne per year don't need to be registered under REACH. Yeow! Many nanomaterials will fall through this hole because of their incredibly miniscule mass. Without registration requirements, no safety data would be required. ETUC calls for closure of this loophole, and we agree!

REACH loophole #3: Materials manufactured or imported under 10 metric tonnes per year aren't required to provide a chemical safety report. This means no safety data, no risk assessment, and where risk is identified there would be no requirements for risk management measures. ETUC says all nanomaterials registered under REACH should be accompanied by a chemical safety report, and, guess what? We agree!

In addition, ETUC calls for more health and safety research of nanomaterials, and more workplace protections. See the full ETUC proposal on their website. Go ETUC! 

Back in the good ole' U.S. of A. we are still trying to get our government to regulate any toxic chemical in a precautionary manner. When will we get a, "no data, no market" approach to chemicals? Soon, I hope!

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program

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