Seventy governments, 12 intergovernmental organisations, and 39 non governmental organisations participating in Forum VI of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) in Dakar, Senegal last week adopted a statement on nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials that explicitly backed use of the precautionary principle.

During the forum delegates heard presentations on possible health effects from exposure to nanoparticles, socioeconomic and environmental impacts predicted from the technology’s introduction and the lack of scientific awareness around nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials.

Negotiations by the working group established under this key agenda item of the forum focused on the scope of the draft statement, and the need for recommendations on global codes of conduct and product labelling. Delegates also discussed workers’ protection from exposure to nanoparticles and whether people affected by nanotechnologies had been consulted.

Discussions on recommendations for product labelling and global codes of conduct revealed a divide between some developed countries, and some developing countries and NGOs. Developing country delegates and NGOs favoured a recommendation for global codes of conduct, arguing that many developing countries did not have the capacity to develop national standards.

Finally the Dakar Statement on Manufactured Nanomaterials, (IFCS/FORUM-VI/07w), the IFCS, inter alia, recommended: -applying the precautionary principle as one of the general principles of risk management; -making information on use and risks associated with the lifecycle of manufactured nanomaterials readily accessible; -strengthening capacity of civil society to effectively participate in decisionmaking related to manufactured nanomaterials; -taking measures to prevent or minimize exposure of workers to nanomaterials and their releases into the environment; and -informing users throughout the supply chain about health and safety risks and novel characteristics of manufactured nanomaterials via Material Safety Data Sheets or other means.

The Statement further recommends that: -governments cooperate with all stakeholders in preparing national codes of conduct and evaluate the feasibility of developing global codes of conduct in a timely manner; -producers provide appropriate information about the content of manufactured nanomaterials in order to inform consumers about potential risks through product labelling and, as appropriate, websites and databases; and -ICCM2 consider these recommendations for further actions.

For further details, read the detailed discussions and plenary presentations from the nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials agenda item.