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Will there ever be a European register of nanomaterials? | VeilleNanos

Will there ever be a European register of nanomaterials?

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By the AVICENN team – last added November 2022

When will a European register of nanomaterials and products containing them be available?

A register requested since 2009 by public authorities and civil society…

A European Community register of nanoproducts on the European market has been requested for a long time by many actors to cater for the lack of information on nano products on the market and the absence of clear and systematic labeling:

Nonetheless, a register dreaded by some

Harmonization on a European scale of the different national registers in force (or in project) in certain Member States is strongly desired by civil society, Member States and the European Parliament…

Industry federations are more ambivalent on the subject: in their official communication, some say they would prefer a European register rather than a juxtaposition of different national registers… But in reality, the status quo may be more advantageous for them and they are apparently not lobbying for a European register.

  • In the United States, the Office of the United States Trade Representative is afraid of the infringement of commercial and/or industrial secrecy, the cost to taxpayers, the administrative burden, …20In April 2014, even before the Commission’s consultation was released (see below), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued a report (See 2014 Report on Technical Barriers to TradeUnited States Trade Representative (USTR), April 2014, p.72) on technical barriers to trade, including the future – and for the moment still hypothetical – European nano register as well as the national nano registries. USTR believes that these registries infringe on trade and/or industrial secrets, cost taxpayers money, require a significant investment of time, and represent an additional administrative burden.

The European Commission reluctant to create a nano register

Announced in early 201321In March 2013, under pressure from civil society and some Member States, the European Commission opened a discussion on the feasibility of a Europe-wide inventory of nano products: EU Commission to tender for nano register impact assessment, Chemical Watch, 21 March 2013 the European Commission launched a “consultation on transparency measures for nanomaterials on the market” in the summer of 2014. The European Commission received 202 responses to this public consultation22– 100 responses from the industry
– 102 responses from other stakeholders (including about 10 from public authorities and about 85 from NGOs – including Avicenn – or citizens).
A full summary and analysis of the public consultation was published in January 2015: “Summary of the public consultation on transparency for nanomaterials on the market”.

Yet, since December 2014, the Commission has said it is not in favor of a Europe-wide registry. As anticipated by the newspaper Chemical Watch, no decision had been taken by the Commission before the renewal of the Commission’s executives23Commission forced to reveal nano options, ENDS Europe, 25 March 2014 and European Commission, member states weigh options for nano inventory, Chemical Watch, 27 March 2014 in the autumn 2014.

One week after the CASG nano meeting on December 4, 2014, Chemical Watch revealed that the establishment of a European register was not envisaged by the Commission24EU nanomaterials register looks unlikely, Chemical Watch, December 11, 2014; see article translated into French Un registre européen des nanomatériaux de plus en plus improbable , le blog Enjeux, January 6, 2015. The French example did not allow consumers to identify products on the market containing nanomaterials, 62% of the substances notified to the French R-Nano register in 2013 are already covered by REACH registrations and 90% should be covered by 2018.

A renunciation disapproved by civil society

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – the only NGO present at the meeting – as well as several representatives of Member States had expressed their disapproval of the position of the Commission, which was to present its final decision by mid-2015. They disputed the figures that were presented, which were for some based on macroscale materials: the number of nanomaterials registered under REACH at the time was very small indeed. France nature environnement(FNE) contacted by AVICENN expressed the wish that “the Commission reviews its copy and  creates a European register, based on the French example, leading to a clear labeling of products using nanomaterials, especially in food.

Other European NGOs informed by AVICENN on December 12 (Friends of the Earth Germany, Öko-Institut, ECOS)  also expressed their dismay at the announcement and the Commission’s arguments: while the French r-nano registry does not allow the identification of marketed products containing nanomaterials, nothing prevents the Commission – except for a lack of political will – to propose a more ambitious registry  that goes as far as product identification for consumers25In 2015, EEB, CIEL and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) sent a note to the Commission in response to its provisional conclusions (see: NGO comments on Transparency measures for nanomaterials on the market: Working conclusions, EEB, CIEL, BUND, 12 January 2015). The three NGOs contest the Commission’s conclusions, which they consider to be biased in favor of the industry’s economic interests, to the detriment of health and environmental concerns and transparency. In this note, they develop the arguments mentioned above, when we interviewed them in December, and in particular the distortions that the Commission has subjected to the lessons learned from the French experience of the R-Nano register:
– they refute the argument put forward by the Commission, based on the R-Nano system, that the burden on industry would be too heavy: admittedly, the first year of implementation of the French mandatory registration required a significant effort from companies in 2013; the implementation of a new task inevitably generates costs of organization, collection and input of information. However these costs decrease significantly once the practice of registration is regularly installed in companies. As early as 2014, the 2nd year of implementation of mandatory reporting in France, industry representatives acknowledged that the amount of work was much less burdensome.
– they also recall that the criticisms addressed by the French civil society to R-Nano must lead to an expansion of the publication of the recorded data… but that in no case should they be used by the Commission to reject the creation of a community register widely supported by the French civil society (cf. the answers of AVICENN, France Nature Environnement, CFTC, CGT, Sarah Dubernet, EELV Aquitaine group, etc.).

And by public authorities

  • Patrick Lévy, who was also approached by AVICENN, replied that the UIC and the MEDEF are not in favor of setting up a European system comparable to R-Nano. However, if a significant number of member states were to move towards such a scheme, they might have to reconsider their position.

Despite this, in March 2016, the Commission confirmed its rejection of a European registry and imposed instead a far from adequate “observatory website”. At a meeting of the CASG-nano, the commission informed the representatives of the Member States that it was ruling out the creation of a register of nanomaterials, but was instead considering the creation of a public website containing existing information on nanomaterials30Cf. Commission rejects idea of EU nano register, Chemical Watch, 16 March 2016. This “Nano Observatory”, set up by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in the following years, is certainly valuable, but far from living up to expectations.

The European Commission thus claims to “better regulate” (sic) by limiting the costs and administrative burden for companies… without regard for the indignation of NGOs and public authorities. As expected, this“Nano Observatory” does not provide much more information than that obtained by the Member States, powerless against the industrial and commercial secrecy of the companies. Five years after its creation, the lack of information, which has been denounced for many years by many Member States, NGOs and scientists, is still striking.

On April 13, 2016, three European NGOs, ECOS, CIEL (associate members of AVICENN) and Öko-Institute proposed a “Declaration on Waste Containing Nanomaterials” signed by more than 80 organizations from around the world, including AVICENN. Among the list of recommendations is the creation of a European public register of nano-products to help identify the levels and flows of nano waste that the OECD recently emphasized the need for.

Only the industrialists are in solidarity with the European Commission’s decision: David Carlander, CEO of the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA), argued that a European registry would be counterproductive to consumer confidence and thus detrimental to European innovation and jobs.31Nano registers: are they having the desired effect?“, Chemical Watch, June 2016. In other words, the less we know, the better: a very particular vision of the “Europe of knowledge”

In the meantime, those who wish to know more can turn to the few existing inventories that we have collected but whose reliability is unfortunately somewhat relative. The latest report by the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) lists only 2,200 products containing nanomaterials on the European market32Cf. Study of the EU market for nanomaterials, including substances, uses, volumes and key operators, EUON, 2022 – a number that is greatly underestimated.

No registry = no labeling

Let us recall that the absence of such a register and the shortcomings of the registration of nanomaterials in Reach are major obstacles to the labeling of nanomaterials (although mandatory in food, cosmetics and biocides): as many companies (those not upstream of the supply chain) are often unaware that the ingredients sold to them by their suppliers may contain nanomaterials (due to the silence of manufacturers), they cannot add the mention [nano] on their product labels as they should.

Consumers lose out on all fronts: no registry, no labeling…

AVICENN supports the commitment of the French authorities, reiterated in the last National Health and Environment Plan (PNSE 4), to promote the extension of the r-nano registry at the European level.

Any questions or comments? This information sheet compiled by AVICENN is intended to be completed and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

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This sheet was originally created in February 2019

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