Europe: Leading the Way in Nanotechnology Regulation

Europe: Leading the Way in Nanotechnology Regulation

For more information contact:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748,
Ian Illuminato 250-477-7135

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two recent actions by the European Union represent the leading edge of efforts to regulate nanotechnology.  The European Union will require nanoparticles in cosmetics to be labeled on the ingredients list and require increased safety testing for cosmetics containing nanoparticles.  It will also prevent nanomaterials from being placed on the food market until being subject to nano-specific, standardized, safety assessments free of animal-testing.

“The European Union is leading the world in its precautionary approach to allowing nanotechnology into the market place,” said Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth Health and Environment Campaigner. “This technology must be proven safe, before consumers and the environment are exposed to these potentially toxic chemicals.”

The definition of nanomaterials which will be adopted in the new EU Cosmetics Directive limits them to insoluble or biopersistent materials. Not soluble and non or semi-biopersistent nanoparticles will not be covered under this legislation, even though they are included in consumer products. “We are disappointed by this definition because the regulation will only apply to some nanomaterials and not all,” said Illuminato. “Another issue with the legislation is that it will take nearly 44 months to come into effect, despite the fact that nanocosmetics are already on store shelves.”

“Ingesting nanoparticles from food is potentially dangerous — Europe is taking the first step in protecting its public — the United States government urgently needs to take similar measures,” said Illuminato, referring to the new Novel Foods Directive.

However, the new Novel Foods Directive has not been finalized. While the first reading vote in Parliament has occurred, what will follow now are negotiations between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. In the fall, the European Parliament will vote upon the negotiated text in a final second vote.

Furthermore, earlier this year Canada became the first government in the world to require companies to provide information about their use of nanomaterials in products.

“Friends of the Earth is pleased to see our detailed, scientifically backed publications on nanotechnology beginning to shape government regulations globally. Our reports have outlined the need for governments to secure precautionary management of nanotechnology.”

To learn more about the Cosmetics Directive:

To learn more about the Novel Foods Directive:


Friends of the Earth ( is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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