Rapidly growing nanotechnology product inventory
products sector from a widening geographical base
- underlining the increasing need for nanotechnology
regulation on an international scale.
The inventory, published by the Project On Emerging Technologies, was released in March 2006 and, although not comprehensive currently provides a list of more than 500 manufacturer identified products containing nanotechnology. Since its release the cosmetics category has grown rapidly and now represents the second largest category after clothing, with the majority of products being marketed as either sun care or anti ageing products. The inventory currently includes 27 suncare products from a wide range of manufacturers and 77 cosmetics products, many of them anti-aging or anti-wrinkle formulations. The products come from a broad range of manufacturers including both luxury brands and high-street ranges, however Evan Michelson, researcher on the project adds that "while there are a broad range of price alternatives there does appear to be a price premium for nano-enabled cosmetics". Regarding the source of nano-enabled cosmetics products Michelson stated that a "geographical area that is particularly well represented in cosmetics is West Asia, particularly Korea and Japan", noting that with the internet it is possible to purchase and ship these products between countries. Such intercontinental trade may have important implications for the regulation of nanotechnology, already a contentious issue as many feel that legislation is far behind consumer access to the technology. In particular, some scientists voice misgivings over the potential chemical instability of nano manipulated particles, particularly when combined with other compounds, as is the case with cosmetic formulations. The EU has just unveiled the date for its nanotechnology progress report that will look into public health, safety, environmental and consumer protection and international cooperation, amongst other topics. Similarly the Food and Drug Administration in the US set up a task force to look at the issue holding a public meeting in October 2006, and the final report is expected in the near future. However Michelson told Cosmetics Design that 'there is little system-wide analysis, and most regulatory decisions are made on a product by product basis'. Michelson further highlighted the problem of international regulation and stated that 'the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has established a Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials that is beginning to look at these questions from an international perspective.' The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was established in April 2005 representing a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the Pew charitable trusts. The project states its mission as 'to inform the debate and to create an active public and policy dialogue' seeking to ensure that as the technologies develop 'potential human health and environmental risks are anticipated, properly understood, and effectively managed.' The project collaborates with researchers, government, policymakers, NGO and others offering a range of services such as publishing reports and supporting research projects in addition to the product inventory.