FoE calls for end to nanotech risks

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth is calling for an EU-wide moratorium on the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics until there is a better understanding of the potential risks posed by the tiny technology.

In a report published this week, Nanomaterials, Sunscreens and Cosmetics: Small Ingredients, Big Risks, the NGO outlines the extensive use of nanotech by high street names and calls for the precautionary approach to be taken while the long-term effects are still unknown.

It argues that there is a lack of independent safety assessment and regulation about these particles and that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that they are highly toxic.

Lisa Archer, Friends of the Earth senior health and environment campaigner, said: “Engineered nanoparticles are being used in virtually every type of personal care product on the market, from sunscreens and anti-ageing creams to toothpastes, despite preliminary scientific evidence that many types of nanoparticles can be toxic.

“Friends of the Earth recommends that the European Union enforces a moratorium on further commercial release of these nano-laced products in the EU.

“Such products currently on the market should be withdrawn until adequate, publicly available, independent peer-reviewed safety studies have been completed.”

“In the past, we’ve seen many ‘wonder’ materials with early warning signs, including but by no means limited to asbestos in construction materials, DDT in insecticides and PCBs in industrial oils.

“The current failure of EU and national regulators to take seriously the early warning signs surrounding nanotoxicity suggests they have learned nothing from this long list of disasters.”

The new report, by Friends of the Earth US, highlights 116 products that contain nanomaterials, some by famous names such as L’Oreal, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Lancome, Chanel and Shiseido.

In a 2004 report, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society – one of the oldest and most respected scientific bodies in the world – recommended “ingredients in the form of nanoparticles should undergo a full safety assessment by the relevant scientific advisory body before they are permitted for use in products.”

Two years after the Royal Society’s report, there are no laws governing the use of nanomaterials in consumer products although in the UK Defra has asked companies engaged in the use of nanotech to sign up to a voluntary reporting scheme while the department draws up official guidelines.

Sam Bond

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