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Echa launches EU nanomaterials observatory

Science - Surface of ball of nanotubes. Credit: ARKEMA. Credit: GRL - Laboratoire ARKEMA

Echa has launched its EU observatory for nanomaterials (EUON), a public website aimed at increasing transparency of information on nanomaterials on the EU market.

The agency signed an agreement with the European Commission last year to develop and host the observatory. This came after the Commission opted not to create an EU nano register, given delays in the introduction of new REACH information requirements for nanomaterials.

The EUON will be developed in three phases. In the first, Echa has collected existing data on nanomaterials on the EU market, such as where they are used and their potential health and safety issues. The platform also hosts information on how they are regulated in the EU and other jurisdictions, and on some relevant ongoing research projects.

In the next two phases, planned for release in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Echa will work on better integrating data from various sources, and on improving search functions on the observatory website, the agency said.

At the same time, it will be scanning external sources for more information, such as European research data and consumer choice studies. New data will be added to the observatory piece by piece "during the next year or two", according to an agency spokesperson.

The agency is also about to launch two studies that will contribute to its next phase.

One of these is a literature review of potential use risks of well-known nano-pigments in consumer products and for workers. The second study will focus on parameters used to produce market studies and their relevance and reliability, aimed at gathering more information on nanomaterials on the market.

Public consultation this month

On 30 June, Echa will host a stakeholder consultation in Brussels where industry and NGOs can discuss the next steps EUON should take. The agency said it will ask for ideas on content and promotion of the observatory. It also wants input on other platforms the EUON could connect with and how to assess the project's success three years from now.

Echa said it is "keen to get the views of all stakeholders, which will be critical to the development".

The Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) will contribute actively to this, said its director of regulatory affairs, David Carlander. "NIA is very supportive of EUON as it provides balanced and science-based information on nanomaterials for Europe," he added.

But the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel) has repeated disappointment shared by NGOs that the European Commission has opted for listing existing information, rather than demanding new data.

The observatory "will not help fill the ongoing knowledge gap in relation to nanomaterials; and in relation to exposure in particular," said director of the environmental health programme for Ciel, David Azoulay.

"Resources would have been better used in developing an EU-wide register that could have replaced national initiatives, and in investing in upgrading and enforcing existing regulatory framework as the current situation just cannot guarantee the safety of nanomaterials on the market," he added.

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