Exactly three years ago today, the European Commission was due to publish a catalogue listing the ingredients in everyday cosmetics and indicating whether they contained potentially dangerous nanomaterials.
But guess what? We are still waiting.
Every time we asked the Commission for information, they told us the catalogue will be released in the coming weeks. This started in 2014.
The safety of nanomaterials is yet to be thoroughly assessed. Several scientific studies find that some of them present dangers to human health and the environment. Yet, nanomaterials are used in many products that are widely used by consumers, like food and cosmetics.
Nanomaterials are chemicals that are engineered to a size that can be a million times smaller than a millimetre. They are engineered to this size because they have different properties from chemicals in their regular size.
The 2009, EU Cosmetics Regulation does not restrict the use of nanomaterials, but does require a level of transparency which allows citizens to find out which nanomaterials are used in cosmetics products through the publication of the Commission’s catalogue.
The catalogue, which should provide the public with the tools to make their own decisions about nanomaterials, remains secret.
A three year delay?
Apparently many of the companies submitting notifications made mistakes. So the Commission, as some form of compensation to the companies for not respecting their legal obligations, decided that it should not publish the information prescribed by the law. That means they have failed to give citizens a tool which allows them to choose what products they are exposed to.
Three years chasing information on nanomaterial risks
In 2014, when the Commission was four months late publishing the catalogue, ClientEarth asked for access to the information which was to be included.
The Commission refused to grant access to the information citing alleged confidentiality and wishing to protect the secrecy of the Commission’s decision making process, saying:
Given the imminent publication, we decided not to go further in pursuing access to the documents.
But the ‘next weeks’ came and went. And now three years later, there is still no sign of the catalogue.
In December last year, as the third anniversary of non-publication of the information on nanomaterials came closer, we sent another request, again asking for the information that would be in the catalogue.
However, the Commission, as in other cases involving chemicals (such as criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals) seems more inclined to protect industry’s interests. This, once again, was the response:
The question is, how many weeks is “in the next weeks”? To find out we asked for clarification from the unit responsible for cosmetics. Their answer was:
“There are ongoing discussions at a higher level within the Commission. At this stage no specific date can be indicated for the publication.”
In Commission language, it is clear – that when it comes to transparency and informing the public about exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, citizens are not a priority.
We think they should be, and we will continue to pursue the answers.