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What is nanotechnology?

Nanomaterials as defined in a 2011 Commission Recommendation are materials which often have specific properties due to their small particle size. It offers a technology that operates on a ’nanoscale’ , equivalent to millionths of a millimetre.

- 2011/696/EC Commission Recommendation of 18 October 2011 on the definition of nanomaterial.

- European Commission & Nanotechnology

Event Summary

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its opinion on the potential risks arising from nanoscience and nanotachnologies used in food, recommended that action should be taken to generate more information on the properties of nanomaterials when they are exposed to consumers.

The study concluded that nanomaterials in food packaging do not migtate to food, and highlighted that a more risk based apparoach to safety research offers far more clarity than labelling alone.

The study was sponsored by PlasticsEurope and the State Ministry of Environment and Public Health of Bavaria.

EPHA postion on nanomaterials

In light of the complexity of the situation and of the precautionary principle, careful consideration of the potential risks of nanomaterials for consumers seems to be appropriate.

Adequate and effective regulation of nanomaterials and nanotechnology is needed in the health sector. Regulation is necessary to ensure that products containing manufactured nanoparticles are safe to consumers and do not lead to new human health and environmental risks.

A strong precautionary approach to manage nanotechnology is recommended:

  • Mandatory safety testing of nanomaterials prior to their inclusion in commercial products- these assessments should be carried out by independent scientific committees.
  • The EU should establish a mandatory reporting scheme to keep track of the introduction of manufactured nanomaterials into the marketplace. In addition, the EU should establish a public inventory of all current and forthcoming nanomaterials used in products on the market.
  • Requirements for product labels to indicate the presence of manufactured nanomaterials/particles- in particular those products with which consumers come in direct, close or regular contact such as food, medicines and cosmetics.
  • Agreement on definitions of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies- the lack of definitions leads to legal uncertainties and can delay the establishment of effective regulation.
  • Existing European legislation relevant to nanotechnologies should be adapted in order to safeguard public health and safety.
  • Public participation in decision-making regarding nanotechnology’s introduction and in determining priorities for public spending on nanotechnology research and development.

- EPHA position on nanomaterials.

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Last modified on April 11 2013.