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A critical look at the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials

Publication date: 30 November 2017
Modificationdate: 06 December 2017

On 14 June 2017, the European Commission launched the “European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials” (EUON). As registration is not mandatory, the EUON is limited in detailed information. Consequently, RIVM expects EUON's contribution to reducing the uncertainty regarding the safety of nanomaterials to be limited. That is the conclusion of the RIVM analysis ‘The European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials – a step forward?’

The European Commission has decided not to introduce a mandatory registry for nanomaterials. Instead, the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials was established at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The RIVM Knowledge and Information Centre on Risks of Nanotechnology (KIR-nano) has explored the consequences of this decision for the available knowledge regarding the use and safety of nanomaterials. Together with a number of other European countries, the Netherlands has asked for a (mandatory) European registration system for nanomaterials.

Via the EUON, the European Commission aims to promote transparency regarding the use and safety of nanomaterials. The EUON facilitates this by providing information about nanomaterials and their potentially associated risks to a broad public in a clear and understandable fashion. The focus thereby is on nanomaterials that are already on the EU market.

The Dutch government aims to safeguard the safety of nanomaterials with regard to humans and the environment. For that purpose, it is important to know which products contain nanomaterials and what the potential risks of these materials are for public health and the environment. The EUON contributes to this knowledge by collecting the available information at one central location. However, in addition to simply collecting information, the quality of the information is also important.

As registration of nanomaterials is not mandatory, the EUON depends upon information about nanomaterials that is already available from other sources, for example from the REACH Regulation. REACH is the European legislation to ensure the safe use of chemical substances. However, this risk assessment framework is not yet sufficiently suitable for nanomaterials. In addition, the information is limited to broad categories of products and articles, and brand names are not specified. As a result, RIVM expects that it will remain difficult for consumers, as well as others, to judge whether they are actually using a ‘nanoproduct’ and what the potential health consequences are of such use. Accordingly, even though the EUON maintains a separate web portal for consumers, it appears most relevant for experts, competent authorities, and industry.

 

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