Cosmetics and sunscreen industry group ACCORD has called the Australian government’s refusal to label nanoparticles in sunscreens and cosmetics “out of touch”. In a story on Radio National’s AM, the industry has repeated its calls for labelling for informed choice – interviewed members of the public agreed.

Government rejects nano labelling for beauty products

Radio National, AM, 16.02.12

TONY EASTLEY: Australian women aren’t likely to find out any time soon what exactly is in the cosmetics they use.

There’s been pressure to label products, specifically those containing nanoparticles.

The Federal Government has rejected the industry’s calls for mandatory labelling. However as Simon Lauder reports the industry says the Government is out of touch and consumers want to be informed.

SIMON LAUDER: There’s evidence that some people are now choosing sun exposure over sunscreen because of concerns about nanoparticles.

The policy director with the cosmetics industry association ACCORD, Craig Brock, says the public concern is deep enough to warrant labelling of products which contain nanoparticles, including cosmetics.

CRAIG BROCK: And that’s got to be a major public health issue that the Government should be thinking about addressing because there is no reason for avoiding sunscreen use but it appears that this scare campaign is having some impact out there.

SIMON LAUDER: The concern with nanoparticles is that they may be able to reach parts of the body that bigger ingredients can’t and there’s public support for mandatory labelling.

VOX POP 1: Well labelling just so you sort of inform but labelling that can actually be read.

VOX POP 2: Well I think that if people want to be able to make a decision about whether they want to use sunscreen with larger or smaller amounts of nanoparticles then they should be able to read whether there is anything in there or not.

VOX POP 3: If there’s something hazardous to my health especially I’d like to be able to choose one product over the other.

SIMON LAUDER: The Australian Government says there’s no evidence nanoparticles go any deeper than the surface of the skin and it doesn’t support labelling for informed choice.

Craig Brock says the Health Department has written to ACCORD to reject the industry’s proposal for labelling.

CRAIG BROCK: What has been frustrating is just the time it’s taken to receive advice on what the Government position would be.

We understand where they’re coming from. We just don’t think it’s a very forward thinking policy position at the moment.

SIMON LAUDER: Mr Brock says the Australian cosmetics industry could be at a disadvantage when labelling requirements are introduced in Europe next year.

CRAIG BROCK: The position they’re pursuing at the moment just seems to be out of touch with the realities of consumer information demands on this issue.

SIMON LAUDER: Could it also create a problem for Australian manufacturers who are hoping to export to Europe?

CRAIG BROCK: That’s likely to be the case. The other thing is the European approach appears to be likely to be adopted in New Zealand.

SIMON LAUDER: Some people who use cosmetics say they’re not happy the Government has decided against labelling.

VOX POP 4: If a product’s just come out it’s hard to find proof of risk. That’s why I’m saying it’s has to be speculative. Well I think the Federal Government’s mad in this case and not doing a service to its citizens.

VOX POP 5: It’s frustrating for the people who do want to be able to make a decision.

SIMON LAUDER: The Greens’ health spokesman Richard Di Natale says it’s taking too long to establish regulation of nanotechnology and he thinks labelling would be a good start.

RICHARD DI NATALE: The principle of increasing innovation, which is an important one, has been put ahead of potential risks associated with the use of new technologies.

And so we need to make sure we’ve got the right balance. We need to encourage innovation and there’s huge potential in this area. But we also need to manage the potential risks.

And the time’s come I think for us to be taking a much closer look at the way we’re regulating nanoparticles.

SIMON LAUDER: A spokesman for the Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says the decision on cosmetics labelling is in line with the latest advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

TONY EASTLEY: Simon Lauder.