The NSW Government yesterday released its official response to recommendations made by the 2008 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Nanotechnology. It backed away from key recommendations to promote nano-product safety, workplace disclosure and consumer choice.

The products of nanotechnology, the ‘science of the small’, are found in sunscreens, cosmetics, food packaging, health supplements, clothing, paints, appliances, surface coatings, fuel catalysts, and building equipment sold in Australia. Not a single product has yet passed nano-specific safety assessment, and none face mandatory labelling.

“Friends of the Earth is extremely concerned that the NSW Government has backed away from key nano safety, workplace disclosure and consumer choice recommendations made by the 2008 Parliamentary Inquiry into Nanotechnology,” said Friends of the Earth Australia nanotechnology spokesperson Georgia Miller.

“The first recommendation of the Parliamentary Inquiry was that given their novel behaviour and new health and environmental risks, nanoparticles should be treated by regulators as new chemicals. This would require regulators to conduct safety assessments of nano-ingredients before they could be used in products”.

“Nanoparticles now in commercial use have been demonstrated to pose serious new health and environment risks, including the potential to cause asbestos-like harm. In its failure to accept the Inquiry’s recommendation to regulate nanoparticles as new chemicals, the NSW Government is refusing to close a major regulatory gap.”

“Friends of the Earth welcomes the NSW Government’s agreement that we need national mandatory reporting for companies that use nanoparticles. Such a scheme is already in place in Canada, France and California. However we are disappointed that in the absence of a national scheme, NSW will not proceed with its own.”

“We also welcome the NSW Government commitment to raise with the Commonwealth the possibility of mandatory labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens and cosmetics, as has been agreed recently in the European Union.”

“However we are extremely disappointed that the NSW Government has rejected the Inquiry’s recommendation for NSW to seek mandatory labelling of nano-food. Polling commissioned last year by Friends of the Earth found that 92% of the Australian public supports mandatory labelling of nano-ingredients in food and food packaging”.

“We are also very disappointed that the NSW Government will not proceed with a state based mandatory labelling scheme for nanoparticles used in workplaces, in the absence of a national labelling scheme”.

“In the United States, where the national government is similarly slow to respond to nanotechnology’s regulatory challenges, states such as California have taken their own initiative. NSW is missing a key opportunity to demonstrate leadership and its commitment to safe handling of this powerful new technology,” said Ms Miller.