Another organization advises the precautionary principle when dealing with nanomaterials. This time it’s the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) organization and they’ve just released a position paper. From the March 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,
Women in Europe for a Common Future, an international network of over 100 women’s, environmental and health organisations implementing projects in 40 countries and advocating globally for a healthy environment, has released a position paper on nanoparticles and nanotechnology: Nano – The great unknown (pdf).
WECF recognizes that nanotechnologies could bring long-term profits and overall societal benefits. However, in order to make an overall judgment, data is needed regarding the hazards, exposure, risks and ethical consequences for humans, the environment and our society as a whole.
Maybe I’m getting grumpy these days but It seems to me that the time for describing ‘nanotechnology as the latest buzzword’ has passed. Here’s the opening sentence from the position paper,
Nanotechnology, the latest buzzword in the global technology revolution, is the science of ‘small things’: the designing, manipulating and engineering of materials at nanoscale. (p. 1)
Also on page 1 is a claim as to the number of nanotechnology-enabled products on the market,
The number of consumer products on the world market claiming to contain nanomaterials exceeded 1300 already by 2010, and there are probably more, as the actual presence of nanomaterials is difficult to identify.
The source for the number of nano products is not cited although WECF does list the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and its product inventory in the bibliography. PEN’s inventory has no oversight (PEN has always been quite frank about this); anyone can register a product and claim there are nanomaterials in it.
Further in the position paper, Canada and California are mentioned,
Other regulatory entities too are working on developing the first laws that can address the concerns on nanomaterials. Canada and the state of California, for example, took the step of imposing mandated disclosure requirements on nanomaterial use and toxicity assessment. Canada’s law of January 2009 targets domestic companies and institutions that manufacture or buy more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterial per year. According to these new regulations, these entities must now reveal how much nanomaterial they use, how they use it, and what they know about its toxicity. (p. 3)
I’m not familiar enough with the situation in California to comment on it but I am somewhat puzzled by the description of a Canadian law targeting domestic companies and institutions that manufacture or buy more than 1 kilogram of nanomaterials per year. There was a one time only requirement to report on how much nanomaterial was being imported into Canada but, as far as I’m aware, there is no law or regulation which states that this must be done on an ongoing basis. (You can read more about the reporting scheme in my April 12, 2010 posting.) This statement was not cited and I can’t find anything in the bibliography that might be the source for this information.
My problem with this position paper is that I can’t trust any of the information because the little I am familiar with contradicts their statements and they don’t support those statements with sources that I can research.