For Immediate Release,
November 13, 2012
Today the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) released their proposal for a European Union legislation to address the risks of nanomaterials.
The NGO proposal comes in reaction to a recent Communication of the EU Commission on the regulation on nanomaterials, which proposed only minor amendments to REACH annexes.
“There is growing evidence that nanomaterials can present risks for human health and the environment. Yet the legal framework does not ensure that their safety is properly assessed before they are placed on the market”, says Jurek Vengels of BUND. “We think it is high time for regulatory action on nanomaterials. If we do not act now, we risk waiting until the damage is already done.”
The proposal uses the 2011 definition of nanomaterials recommended by the European Commission, and presents the outline of a new stand-alone piece of legislation. The proposed legislation would set common principles for the regulation of nanomaterials and complement existing regulations to make them “nano fit”, particularly REACH, as the cornerstone of EU chemical regulations.
David Azoulay of CIEL comments: “Loopholes, which make REACH virtually useless for assessing and regulating nanomaterials, have been identified and denounced by several stakeholders. If we are serious about addressing the potential risks of nanomaterials, we must close these loopholes, and our proposal suggests how it can be done.”
To address this situation, the three NGOs propose a “nano patch” for REACH. It includes an obligation for all nanomaterials to be considered distinct from their counterparts above the nanoscale and suggests substantially lower volume thresholds for registration of substances at the nanoscale. The concept paper also proposes an EU-wide registry for all nanomaterials and products on the market.
“Although the Commission admitted the failure of existing legislation to provide data on nanomaterials, it confirmed its reluctance to act to remove the obstacles to the effective protection of EU citizens by refusing to consider the necessary adaptation of the regulation”, says Vito Buonsante of ClientEarth. “We have a concrete proposal for overcoming this reluctance that will hopefully inspire the Commission to modify its position and to be bolder on the nano front”.
“The European Commission has so far failed to protect consumers against health risks posed by nanomaterials despite acknowledging, over four years ago, that the protection of health, safety and the environment requires the EU regulatory framework and its implementation to be enhanced”, declares Tatiana Santos, Senior Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). “EEB therefore welcomes this proposal from its partner organisations, and we can’t help but wonder why the Commission did not draft such a document in the first place, since it was asked to do so by member states, MEPs and NGOs alike.”