woman applying make up for story saying Commission facing EU legal watchdog over nano-chemicals in cosmetics

Commission facing EU legal watchdog over nano-chemicals in cosmetics

ClientEarth has today complained to the EU Ombudsman about the European Commission’s unlawful handling of a long-delayed list of nano-chemicals in cosmetics.

Originally due in 2014, the Commission finally published the catalogue on 15 June 2017, three and a half years later, Despite the lengthy delay, the list still does not let people identify which cosmetics contain potentially harmful nanomaterials, or assess the threat they may pose to human health.

The Commission repeatedly said the list would be published within weeks, then claimed the list did not exist after ClientEarth requested it. It also misinterpreted EU Court precedent on access to documents in an attempt to keep information secret.

This protects the cosmetics industry rather than consumers. It also goes against the Commission’s own words during the debate at the European Parliament in 2009, when it argued the new rules on cosmetics would provide “…greater security and greater transparency for consumers… [and] improve the level of information provided to consumers”.

ClientEarth lawyer Anne Friel said: “EU law specifically recognises the danger nanos could pose to people, so gave them information rights to balance the scales. Our complaint to the Ombudsman shows that the Commission has consistently breached and frustrated these rights.

“After deliberate delays of three and a half years, the Commission’s list does not contain the necessary information on nanos in the beauty products people use every day, further delaying consumers’ ability to make informed decisions. This is unacceptable, and the Commission’s contortions to avoid releasing the list in the first place are a shocking dereliction of duty.

“We call on the Ombudsman to investigate this unlawful practice and stop the Commission blocking access to the information to which consumers are entitled, and which will let them make informed decisions.”

Nanomaterials are chemicals engineered to be up to a million times smaller than a millimetre. Nanoparticles are generally more toxic than larger particles of the same chemical, because they have a much larger surface-to-volume ratio. They are also much more readily absorbed into the body, because they are so small. Far too little is known about the risks nanos pose, but they are thought to cause inflammation (for example, in lungs) and to alter genes.

The European Ombudsman – an independent and impartial EU body – should open an investigation into these acts of maladministration and hold the Commission to account for frustrating consumers’ and civil society’s rights to know about the risks of products people use every day.

Share this...
Share on Facebook! Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn! Email!


Related articles

More from

  • busy street

    Missed air quality targets hits new high, ClientEarth mulls fresh legal action

    Without action to address the holes in its latest air quality plans, ministers could face legal action for the third time.

  • Feet walking

    New air quality data show Brussels fails to take air pollution seriously

    Brussels has failed to tackle air pollution in the capital with levels continuing to exceed legal limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) according to new figures.

  • passenger

    ClientEarth launches legal action to avert another Dieselgate

    New rules which allow car manufacturers to keep their emissions control systems secret from the public risk another Dieselgate scandal.

  • ClientEArth: Chairty Times Charity of the Year

    ClientEarth celebrates wins, recognition and rankings surge at FT and Charity Times awards

    Environmental law teams across ClientEarth are celebrating this morning following recognition at two major awards ceremonies last night, in multiple categories.

  • Follow us


    Get our regular email newsletters, they contain the latest updates on our work as well as features and articles about environmental issues, science and politics.