The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Gabriella Zanzanaini,

Are We Moving from Nanotechnology to Nanotoxicity?

Food & Water Europe Report questions the unseen hazards of nanotechnology


Industries claim that nanotechnology is both good for business and
good for consumers' quality of life, a seemingly obvious win-win
situation. Yet the less advertised risks of nanotechnology applications
require close scrutiny.

The application of nanotechnology began with semiconductors, but the
presence of nanomaterials in your laptop and car is not the same as
ingesting it from your chocolate bar.

In its new report on the hazards of nanotechnology, released to
coincide with the proposal for a Framingnano governance platform at the
European Commission, Food & Water Europe believes that basic human
needs such as food and water should remain nanotechnology-free, as
potential harms may be much greater than the alleged benefits.

Justifying the risk taken in the use of nanomaterials by saying that
everything we use contains an element of risk anyway, is a weak
argument. The analogy between the risk of driving a nanotechnology
powered car and that of consuming a product that we apply to our skin
or swallow is over simplistic, as the nature of the risks involved in
these two cases differs significantly. Given today's immense
uncertainty with respect to absorbing a nanoparticle (through ingestion
or application to hair and skin), the precautionary principle should be
enforced through a moratorium on all consumer products whose safety has
not been proven beyond doubt.

Food & Water Europe focuses on the risks of nanotechnology
applications in areas such as occupational safety, environment and
consumer products while pointing out the insufficiency of existing
regulations both in the United States and the European Union alike. In
the absence of meaningful regulations that would prioritize consumers'
safety over profit, Food & Water Europe supports the "no data no
market" approach of the European Parliament's environment committee,
which includes market withdrawal of consumer products containing
nanotechnology until reliable and independent safety assessments can be

Lawmakers need to scale back the widespread proliferation of
consumer products containing nanoparticles until a robust regulatory
program is in place. In the interim, it is essential that regulators
require all consumer products containing nanotechnology to be labelled
(even when the production process contains less than 1 tonne of
nanomaterials) and that an inventory of such products will be available
to consumers through the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate
General (SANCO) of the European Commission.

The application of nanotechnology takes different forms along the
manufacturing chain and each individual holder only remains liable for
their stage of the production and not for whatever manipulations are
carried out further down the line. Taking this into account, voluntary
best practice codes are insufficient; a mandatory code of conduct needs
to be enforced among all parties dealing with the application of

The European Commission may be increasing its funding for
nanotechnology R&D, but should not put the focus on innovation and
the commerciality of nanomaterials as was previously done. More
attention needs to be given to the pressing matter of risk assessment
and exposure hazards of nanoparticles. When products are already on the
shelves, we cannot afford a "wait-and-see" approach.

Read Food and Water Europe's report.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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