Friends of the Earth Australia has joined an international coalition of 44 environment, public interest and labour organisations calling for urgent precautionary management of nanotechnology’s toxicity risks to human health and the environment, and its significant social challenges. The group has released a joint statement (download below)  that details the principles which should underpin precautionary and democratic management of this powerful new technology. The coalition spans six continents and includes several Australian signatories – the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Biological Farmers of Australia, Friends of the Earth, GeneEthics and the National Toxics Network.

Despite mounting evidence of the serious new risks associated with nanotoxicity, the public, workers, and the environment remain exposed to unregulated nanomaterials now used in cosmetics, sunscreens, food and food packaging, clothing, household appliances, paints, electronic goods and industry.

Friends of the Earth believes that it is completely unacceptable that hundreds of nano products are now commercially available, yet governments internationally have failed to protect the public, workers and the environment from their risks. Earlier this year, Australian chemicals regulator NICNAS indicated that over ten thousand tonnes of nanomaterials are used in Australia industry each year.

Yet the Australian government has yet to commit to regulating the nanotech industry. Our international coalition is calling upon all governmental bodies, policymakers, industries and other organizations involved in nanotechnology to endorse these principles and to use them to underpin precautionary management of nanotechnology. A summary of the key recommendations of the joint principles document follows, along with a list of the current signatories.

The coalition’s declaration outlines eight fundamental principles necessary for adequate and effective oversight and assessment of the emerging field of nanotechnology

I. A Precautionary Foundation: Product manufacturers and distributors must bear the burden of proof to demonstrate the safety of their products: if no independent health and safety data review, then no market approval.

II. Mandatory Nano-specific Regulations: Nanomaterials should be classified as new substances and subject to nano-specific oversight. Voluntary initiatives are not sufficient.

III. Health and Safety of the Public and Workers: The prevention of exposure to nanomaterials that have not been proven safe must be undertaken to protect the public and workers.

IV. Environmental Protection: A full lifecycle analysis of environmental impacts must be completed prior to commercialization.

V. Transparency: All nano-products must be labeled and safety data made publicly available.

VI. Public Participation: There must be open, meaningful, and full public participation at every level.

VII. Inclusion of Broader Impacts: Nanotechnology’s wide-ranging effects, including ethical and social impacts, must be considered.

VIII. Manufacturer Liability: Nano-industries must be accountable for liabilities incurred from their products.

The initial endorsing organizations are: Acción Ecológica (Ecuador) African Centre for Biosafety American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.) Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Beyond Pesticides (U.S.) Biological Farmers of Australia Canadian Environmental Law Association Center for Biological Diversity (U.S.) Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (U.S.) Center for Food Safety (U.S.) Center for Environmental Health (U.S.) Center for Genetics and Society (U.S.) Center for the Study of Responsive Law (U.S.) Clean Production Action (Canada) Ecological Club Eremurus (Russia) EcoNexus (United Kingdom) Edmonds Institute (U.S.) Environmental Research Foundation (U.S.) Essential Action (U.S.) ETC Group (Canada) Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security (India) Friends of the Earth Australia Friends of the Earth Europe Friends of the Earth United States GeneEthics (Australia) Greenpeace (U.S.) Health and Environment Alliance (Belgium) India Institute for Critical Action-Centre in Movement Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (U.S.) Institute for Sustainable Development (Ethiopia) International Center for Technology Assessment (U.S.) International Society of Doctors for the Environment (Austria) International Trade Union Confederation International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations Loka Institute (U.S.) National Toxics Network (Australia) Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (U.S.) Science and Environmental Health Network (U.S.) Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (U.S.) Tebtebba Foundation – Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education (Philippines) The Soils Association (United Kingdom) Third World Network (China) United Steelworkers (U.S.) Vivagora (France) .