European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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27 September 2010

The Belgian Presidency calls for nanomaterials register

Europe should make consumer information on the presence of nanomaterials mandatory and maintain a register to trace these materials back to their source, according to proposals made by the Belgian EU presidency on 14 September 2010.

The EU should develop a regulatory framework quickly to avoid a situation where differing national policies disrupt the market as occurred with GMOs, it said. France is considering taking unilateral action on nanomaterials at national level.
There has been continuing concern that the relatively new science of nanotechnology is not being covered by EU legislation. Although such materials are already used in products, little is known about their potential effects on human health. There is overwhelming support for a register among stakeholders.
Belgium's proposals were outlined at a workshop it held in Brussels on Tuesday. A European Commission official said guidance on how the REACH chemicals regime will cover nanomaterials will not be complete until early 2011.

But the commission has a "high priority" to come up with a legislative definition of nanomaterials before the end of this year, he added. In the past, the EU executive has indicated the existing legislative framework is capable of dealing with nanomaterials.
A representative from Brussels-based consultancy Milieu, which worked on a commission consultation this year, said the REACH legislation only partially covers nanomaterials because it only deals with parent substances used in their creation.

The consultancy recommends a mandatory reporting scheme specifically dealing with nanometrials usage to plug the gaps left by REACH and the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) regulation. No testing should be required before registering a substance. Toxicological data would be submitted later, it says. Milieu also recommends that all nanomaterials should be considered as new substances rather than "phase-in" old substances under REACH.

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) supports the initiative of the Belgian Presidency to ensure safety of workers along the life cycle production, and said that within the Classification and Labelling Inventory, it is important to ensure that the different IT submission tools make it possible for the European Chemical agency (ECHA) to know whether the substance is in the nano-form should allow companies to classify their substances as nanomaterials, and calls for an inventory based on this information.

The ETUI also proposes that ECHA should build a separate inventory of all substances in the nano form for which classification and labeling notification has been received, or for which the registration dossier contains evidence of a nano-form.

Sources: ENDS, ETUI
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