The European Trade Union Confederation, representing 82 European trade unions, has called for the “no safety data, no market” principle to be applied to nanoparticles. In its new statement the ETUC “calls on the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to refuse to register chemicals for which manufacturers fail to supply the data required to ensure the manufacture, marketing and use of their nanometer forms that has no harmful effects for human health and the environment at all stages of their life cycle”.

In line with calls from Friends of the Earth Australia and other groups, the ETUC has also warned that regulators must not limit nano-specific safety testing requirements to particles measuring <100nm. “ETUC calls on the Commission to adopt a definition of nanomaterials which is not restricted to objects below 100 nanometers in one or more dimensions. This is important to avoid many nanomaterials already on the market to be left out of the scope of future legislations”.

The ETUC has called for a strong application of the precautionary principle in relation to managing the risks of nanomaterials. “Employers must be required to implement appropriate risk reduction measures, not only when known dangerous [nano]substances are present in the workplace, but also when the dangers of substances used are still unknown”.

Recognising the large imbalance between funding for commercial research and funding for research into nanotoxicity risks, the ETUC also calls for at least 15% of national and European public research budgets for nanotechnology to be earmarked for health and environmental aspects.

The ETUC also goes beyond expressing concern about nanomaterials’ risks for health and the environment to recognise that nanotechnology will have significant social and economic implications. For this reason, it calls for full public involvement in nanotechnology decision making. “Since nanotechnologies have the ability to profoundly alter the social, economic and political landscape of our societies, it is essential that all interested parties have a full say in the discussions and decisions that affect them. The ETUC therefore calls on the European Commission and Member State governments to commit sufficient funds to ensure real civic participation in the current debate on these new technologies”.