As lack of scientific data on nanotech’s health and environmental risks impedes the development of specific legislation, NGOs call for the application of the precautionary principle. “The need for more evidence does not have to stop us from taking action now,” they claim.
“The production of nanomaterials is increasing rapidly and they have broad applications (tennis balls, cosmetics, electronic equipments, cleaning products, stain- free surface coatings) even if their health, environment and safety aspects are not known yet,” said Commission official Eva Hellsten in a Green Week session on ‘Future Scenarios for Human Health and the Environment’ on 13 June 2007.
She explained that the EU’s approach to nanotechnologies is ‘safe, integrated and responsible’ and presented two range of issues currently under EU examination:
- Regulatory aspects – making an inventory of existing regulation and checking whether nanotechnologies are already covered by other community legislation, thus defining the legislative framework, considering both implementation and enforcement tools for this specific framework, and;
- improving knowledge base – conducting nanotech risk assessment, considering risk management and studying toxicity, ecotoxicity, as well as human and environmental exposure to nanomaterials.
“Environmental and health risks of nanomaterials are in principle covered by the EU regulatory framework. However, implementation of the legal framework remains difficult because of scientific knowledge gaps [on nanomaterials] and a fast-evolving market for products,” said Hellsten.