Three years ago today the European Commission was due to publish a nanomaterials inventory for cosmetics, but it still has not appeared.
The EU cosmetics Regulation requires the Commission to publish an inventory of nanomaterials, used in cosmetic products on the European market. The law set 11 January 2014 as the deadline for publication, but the Commission has delayed it, blaming the poor quality of information it has received from industry.
"The delay in publishing the new nanomaterials inventory is due to the fact that the Commission has determined that some of the information on nanomaterials, provided by operators through the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP), is not accurate”, the Commission told Chemical Watch.
“The delay is not caused by specific nanomaterials substances, but an overall need to ensure the inventory contains correct and consistent information.”
As an example, the Commission said that some substances, such as water, were notified as nanomaterials even though it is "unlikely" that they are. Meanwhile, other substances had not been notified as such, even though they should have been notified through a separate pre-market notification specific to products containing nanomaterials.
It said the inventory will "only be useful if it contains correct information". It did not give a publication date, only saying the inventory will be "published shortly".
When asked for a comment, industry association Cosmetics Europe said that it did not have access to the information contained in the CPNP database and that it was not aware of the publication date of the inventory.
In June 2014 NGO ClientEarth made an access to information request to the Commission, which responded that the inventory would be published “in the next few weeks”.
When this did not happen, in December 2016 ClientEarth sent a second request to which the Commission responded “the catalogue [...] will be published on our website in the next few weeks, so we kindly ask for some patience”.
NGOs have strongly criticised the delay and the Commission’s response. “After three years of refusing to comply with its legal obligations, we find the Commission's response to be absolutely irresponsible and contemptuous,” said David Azoulay, managing attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel).
“The Commission obviously favours industry’s concerns over the health and environment of European citizens. It is high time it takes its legal obligation seriously and adopts a more aggressive approach,” he added.
Doreen Fedrigo-Fazio, senior policy officer for nanotechnology at European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), said the Commission is "clearly" putting industry interests ahead of democratic processes and protection of human health and the environment.
It “could have published the information, however poor, allowing national governments, civil society and other interested stakeholders, such as academics and scientists, to scrutinise it,” Ms Fedrigo-Fazio said.
“The question now is whether the Commission really wants to publish the information at all,” she said, adding that civil society organisations would pursue “whatever official routes are available” to ensure it is released.
Mr Azoulay said he is sceptical about the Commission’s chances of obtaining better information, based on the industry’s “reluctance to provide any information about the nanomaterials they put on the market”.
In a position paper in December, NGOs said pressure on the industry to provide robust information remains urgent and release of manufactured nanomaterials into the environment should not be allowed until adequate safety data is available.
In the meantime, Mr Azoulay said the Commission could adopt enforcement measures, such as pulling cosmetics containing nanomaterials from the market until adequate information is provided.
This story has been amended to better clarify NGO reaction to the European Commission's responses to access to information requests