New EU rules on nanomaterials cause controversy

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nanomaterials European union

The provisions for nanomaterials in the recast of the EU Cosmetics Directive have come in for criticism from campaigners.

In the run up to this week’s vote in the European Parliament, campaigners pushed for safeguards on nanomaterials to be added to the legislation.

The adopted regulation is now the first EU law to address nanomaterials and has been welcomed as “ground breaking” by Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer.

In a statement, Breyer said the vote marks a radical departure from the current EU Commission position, which has so far argued that existing legislation is adequate.

European consumer association BEUC also welcomed the regulation as an “important step” but voiced some reservations about the rules.

"Loopholes" in the safety evaluation provisions

BEUC highlighted two “loopholes” in the provisions. Nanomaterials used for certain specific purposes (colouring, preservatives or as a UV filter) must be evaluated for safety before they reach the market.

However, BEUC said nanomaterials used in cosmetics for other reasons will not be covered by this measure. Manufacturers will only have to inform the Commission that the nanomaterials are being used and so they will not be evaluated for safety before reaching the market.

BEUC said there are “hundreds” of such uses that are not covered by the safety assessment plans.

Definition criticised for being too narrow

The consumer watchdog also expressed concern about the definition of nanomaterials. BEUC said it only covers biopersistent and insoluble nanomaterials meaning that other nanomaterials escape the requirement of the legislation.

Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer was also concerned about the “narrowness” of the definition. She said: “To provide effective protection, cosmetics legislation should have specific provisions for all nanomaterials, not just some. We call on the Commission to quickly revise the definition to bring it in line with international definitions.”

One final concern about the new regulation was not related to its content but the time lag before implementation. BEUC said: “The safety requirements will only start in 2012 – giving manufacturers three years to market cosmetic products containing potentially unsafe nanomaterials, which will remain unchecked.”

Response from industry to BEUC

The UK cosmetics trade body CTPA said the suggestion that the nanomaterials used in cosmetics will go unchecked until 2012 is misleading.

“The CTPA can categorically refute this,”​ the CTPA told

“All cosmetic products must undergo a rigorous safety assessment carried out by a professionally qualified safety assessor before being placed on the market. This must take into account all aspects of the product and its manufacture, including ingredients, how and where the product is to be used and this also takes into account the size of the ingredient particles - irrespective of any official definition of particle size.

“This is a legal requirement now under the EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) and will continue right up until the new Cosmetics Regulation comes into force which also requires that only safe products are placed on the market.”

​ would welcome any feedback about the legislation and the criticisms put forward by BEUC and Hiltrud Breyer. To send your comments click on “Have Your Say” just below this article.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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