Nanomaterials labelling has to improve to gain public's trust - ECHA

Author: Morgan Condon


LONDON (ICIS)--Public trust in nanomaterials could increase if labelling was more detailed on products including food, drugs, and cosmetics, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) said on Monday.

The Helsinki-based EU chemicals regulator concluded that nearly 90% of citizens in the 27-country bloc demand clearer labelling that details whether a product contained nanomaterials.

The study – conducted by ECHA’s EU Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) – measured and analysed perceptions of the risks nanomaterials pose to human health and the environment in EU countries Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, and Poland.

Nanomaterials are chemical substances at a very small scale increasingly used in several manufacturing sectors; they have novel characteristics compared to the same material without nanoscale features,and can help increase strength, chemical reactivity, or conductivity, for example.

General awareness about the nature, characteristics and properties is low, the study concluded, and there are concerns over the safety of some established and newer applications of traditional and more advanced nanomaterials.

This information was particularly of interest for food and food-related products, medicines, cosmetics, clothing and textiles, toys, and detergents or household products.

The results showed a correlation between a lack of awareness of nanomaterials and increased concerns, with those who knew more about nanomaterials showing less concern about the safety of using them in everyday products.

Despite some concerns, the general risk perception of nanomaterials was lower than for other modern trends and technologies, with awareness increasing compared to earlier surveys and is expected to continue rising in the future.

The study’s key recommendation is to increase awareness of nanomaterials and the related benefits and risks among EU citizens so that the public can make informed choices through greater communication of the benefits and safety aspects of nanomaterials.

It was also recommended that the survey was rolled out across all 27 member states as more research would be needed to find the most appropriate type of labelling and if existing requirements need to be adapted.

If used, the guidance aims to support authorities and regulators to improve the communication on nanomaterials and will improve understanding of how nanomaterials and nanotechnology are used.

The study evaluated factors such as shopping habits, trust in authorities, preferred information sources and labelling requirements among the general population.

The European chemicals trade group Cefic had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Front page picture source: EUON