In the beginning of October, the European Commission published a Communication assessing the adequacy and implementation of EU legislation for nanomaterials. The Communication comes with a Staff Working Paper which sets the background for their conclusions. This background paper collates much of the existing information on nanomaterials. It highlights that the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers carbon nano-tubes and titanium dioxide (widely used in sunscreens) are considered as possible carcinogens. Furthermore, it points out that none of the existing databases including information on the presence of nanomaterials in consumer products include data that may be reliable, and all the attempts of voluntary reporting schemes have been a failure.
Finally on REACH, which the Commission considers the main tool to gather information on nanomaterials, the Commission found that data quality was often in question due to the lack of justification or adequate characterisation of the addressed nanoform or the testing material. For registrations that included both the traditional and the nanoform, it was not possible to distinguish which data are for nanomaterial.
From these premises anyone would believe that the logical conclusion from the Commission would be that it is necessary to fill the gaps in the legislation to provide EU citizens with an adequate framework to assess and manage any possible risk deriving from the marketing and use of nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials.
But who said business and politics are logical? Thus, the conclusion of the Communication, despite having pretty much proved that the existing tools don’t deliver what is needed, is that nanomaterials require a risk assessment, which should be performed on a case-by-case basis, using pertinent information. The Commission will do some minor changes to REACH annexes and report back in three more years.
Don’t mention the precautionary principle: in order to take action that affects business, politicians need smoking guns. Early warnings will be ignored until the evidence of a problem is huge.