Warning that nanomaterials could be the “21st century asbestos”, NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon has called for a moratorium on the sale of all products that contain nanomaterials until adequate regulation is in place to manage the health and environment risks of nanotoxicity. The NSW Greens call follows that of Greens in other countries. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament representing south-east England, called for a nanotech moratorium in 2003.

The NSW Greens call for a nano-moratorium has been widely reported in the Australian media. “Greens urge ban on nanomaterials in toiletries”: ABC Online, ABC Regional Online. “Call for moratorium on nanotechnology”: Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The West Australian, Ninemsn, Yahoo 7 News.

The full text of the Greens media release is copied below:

“Nanotech the new asbestos, Greens call for moratorium”

In response to the release of Australia’s first inventory of commercial use of nanomaterials, Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon called on Premier Iemma to put an immediate moratorium on the release of consumer products containing manufactured nanomaterials until adequate regulation is in place and to establish a regulatory body to assess the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of materials at the atomic level.
“Nanomaterials could well be the 21st century’s asbestos. The Iemma government is failing to keep up with this fast-moving technology”, said Ms Rhiannon.

“Nanomaterials are already in products on NSW shelves and NICNAS report revealed that over ten thousand tonnes of nanomaterials are used in commercial production in Australia each year.

“Despite widespread commercial use, NSW has no nano-specific safety assessment process to protect workers and the environment from unsafe exposure and no labelling requirement for nanomaterials in products.

“Yet the public is none the wiser to the risks of slapping suncream or shampoos containing nanoparticles on our families and sending people off to work in factories that handle this potentially toxic technology.

“The Greens call on Premier Iemma to put an immediate moratorium on the release of consumer products containing manufactured nanoparticles and to establish a NSW regulatory body to assess the health and environmental risks of nanoparticles.

“Premier Iemma is taking a foolhardy and dangerous approach to allow nanomaterials into commercial industries in NSW with no regulatory oversight.

“Because of their very small size and higher chemical reactivity, nanomaterials can be more toxic than the same materials in bulk form. They are more readily inhaled than larger particles, can be ingested, and may even be absorbed through the skin.

“Test tube studies have shown that nanomaterials can be toxic to human tissues and cells, resulting in DNA mutation and even cell death”.

“In 2004, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society recommended that given their toxicity risks, nanomaterials should be subject to rigorous safety assessments prior to their commercial release, and factories and laboratories should treat nanomaterials as if they were hazardous.

“Three years later, we can buy products containing nanomaterials and there is still no regulatory oversight of nanoparticles.

“Premier Iemma has been in negotiations with the Federal government for over a year to develop a National Nanotechnology Strategy. A protracted talk-fest is not good enough when these products are already on our shelves unlabelled.

“If the Iemma government wants to avoid a repeat of the asbestos tragedy, urgent action is required before industrial use of nanomaterials expands”, said Ms Rhiannon.

For more information: Lee Rhiannon 0427 861 568

The National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) inventory is available here.