Legislation set to shape nanotech cosmetics

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal care products, Nanotechnology

Despite pressure for increased legislation on the use of
nanotechnology in cosmetic products throughout 2007, the number of
nanoparticle-containing products continues to grow.

The year has been characterised by increasing attention on the use of nanotechnology in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics and personal care formulations. The use of nanoparticles in personal care products has come under criticism as some believe particles of this size may not behave in a predictable way, perhaps having unforeseen negative side effects for the consumer. However many believe that the technology holds significant benefits for the future, with the European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, stating that the applications of nanotechnology​ are so wide they will play an important role in Europe's economic future. As yet legislation on the use of the technology in personal care products is minimal and manufacturers are not obliged to state whether nanoparticles are included in their products. Increasing calls for legislation ​ In June 2007 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report on the safety of over 700 sunscreen products, many of which are unsafe as they contain nanoparticles, claimed the lobby group. In August 2007 the Friends of the Earth published a similar report, advising consumers of 'safe' nano free sun care products. The body called for the labeling of nanoparticle-containing products to be made obligatory and called for a moratorium on their commercial release. In contrast however the FDA's nanotechnology Task Force report was released in July 2007 and did not call for compulsory labeling because 'current science does not support a finding that classes of products with nanoscale materials necessarily pose greater safety concerns'.​ According to the report 'nanoscale materials present regulatory challenges similar to those posed by products using other emerging technologies'. ​ This finding was criticized heavily by the Wilson Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies who described the report as a 'nano-step forward' expressing their frustration over the speed of the progress made by the government towards a clear set of priorities. Moreover, it appears that it is not just interest groups and consumers who are pushing for further regulation. In October the need for regulation came under the attention of the International Cooperation on Cosmetic Rgulation, at their first meeting held in Brussels this October. The group, with representatives from FDA USA, Health Canada, Labour and Welfare Japan and European Commission Directorate General Enterprise, discussed the possibilities for international safety regulation of the technology. Furthermore, the jury is still far from out in the scientific community regarding the technology's safety for use in consumer products. A report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in November, suggests that scientists are more concerned than the public about nanotechnology, a finding that the authors suggest could be due to consumer ignorance. "Scientists aren't saying there are problems,"​ said the study's lead author Dietram Scheufele, professor of life sciences communication and journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "They're saying, 'we don't know. The research hasn't been done.'" Double figure growth for nano cosmetics ​ Despite the calls for regulation the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics and personal care products is increasing. A recent research report from BCC Research has estimated that the global market for cosmetics using nanotechnology is currently valued at $62m and is forecast to grow annually by 16.6 percent reaching $155.8m by 2012. The market research company listed sunscreens as one of three applications in the biomedical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry that are expected to account for 95 percent of the market in 2012. The growing number of nanoparticle-containing products is likely to lead to further calls to regulate the use of the technology in consumer products in 2008. Moreover, consumers are becoming increasingly safety conscious regarding personal care products following a collection of high profile safety scares - a factor which is likely to contribute to demands for the regulation of nanotechnology products.

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