Last week (20 November), EU member states adopted new rules on the marketing and safety of cosmetics by grouping the existing 55 directives into a single regulation.
One of the key elements of the new streamlined laws is a clause requiring companies to print the word 'nano' in brackets after any ingredient which is smaller than 100 nanometres in size.
"All ingredients present in the form of nanomaterials shall be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients," according to the new legislation.
However, Germany took the view that highlighting the fact that a product contains nanomaterials could be viewed by consumers as a warning.
German officials noted that cosmetic products that are for sale in the EU must already pass stringent safety tests, implying that the inclusion of nano-scale materials should not warrant additional scrutiny.
Green MEPs and environmental lobby groups have been pushing for the application of the 'no data, no market' principle to nanotechnologies (EurActiv 02/04/09).
Industry groups fear this would put the onus on them to prove nanomaterials do not carry any additional risk – a process that could lead to hundreds of products being taken off the market.
Germany's position is that information on nano-scale materials may be important for consumers where the particle size results in altered properties. This is closer to the industry's preference for defining nanotechnology based on function rather than size.
The new regulation will apply in all 27 EU countries and harmonises a previously fragmented area of law. The changes should help reduce costs and streamline safety rules.
The definition of nanomaterials, according to the law, is "an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm".