This report recapitulates issues relevant for the on-going discussion on transparency and requests for more information regarding the use of nanomaterials (NMs) in consumer products. It reviews content related labelling of products containing NMs and the establishment of product registers for such products and contributes to the debate on the need for such measures and their possible impact. The addressees of the report include policy makers, EU Member State authorities, industry, NGOs, research institutes and consumers.
The number and amount of consumer products and applications using nanotechnology on the market are rapidly increasing. Technological innovations at the nanoscale are exploited in novel products, but may at the same time involve unknown risks. The safety of products containing NMs is regulated by several EU legal acts that address chemicals and products in general including the Chemicals Regulation REACH, the Classification and Labelling of Products Regulation, General Products Safety Directive and others. In addition, NMs are explicitly addressed in a number of recently revised sector specific legislations (e.g. the Regulations for Biocidal Products, Cosmetic Products, Provision of Food Information to Consumers, Active and Intelligent Materials and Articles, and Plastic Food Contact Materials). However, several stakeholders, for example the European Parliament, some EU Member States and non-governmental organisations, have requested more transparency and traceability concerning the use of NMs in consumer products on the market. The report summarises EU legislation and how it addresses NMs.
Labelling consumer products containing NMs and/or making information on NM content available in product registers or inventories are measures to provide information and traceability of their use. Labelling provides information to the consumer at the time of purchase, while a product register may give a better overview of the overall application of NMs and potential exposure of humans and the environment. Mandatory labelling requirements regarding the content of NMs (in an ingredients list) are already part of EU legislation on food, cosmetics and biocides. Mandatory reporting to the European Commission (EC) is required for cosmetic products containing NMs and some EU Member States are introducing mandatory reporting schemes for a wider range of consumer products (France, Belgium and Denmark). Labelling and/or registration of NMs in consumer products should be understood as a "risk-independent" description of the composition of the product, since the presence of NMs does not automatically imply a risk. Any information provided needs to be adequate and proportionate to the knowledge of the consumers and should not lead to any discrimination of products. Any means to increase information and transparency should preferably be harmonised at least within the EU or even at an international level to avoid trade barriers and unfair commercial practices. The report discusses the different options and their influence both on labelling and creation of registers.
Identification of products containing NMs and market transparency requires a harmonised definition of the term "nanomaterial". Several definitions are available, including a Recommendation by the European Commission. A claim of the presence (or absence) of NMs in products should be enforceable and possible to monitor. Currently available methods allow in principle the detection and quantification of NMs, also when they are embedded in simple matrices, but these methods are not yet standardised nor generally agreed upon. Routine application of detection methods in complex matrices, such as in cosmetics or food, still needs considerable development. The report gives an overview of the state of the art of verification methods.