Issue: March 2017, 40 years of the Oeko-Institut – Special anniversary issue


Nanomaterials and other chemicals

Does precautionary protection of human health and environmental quality really work?

We are surrounded by them all the time and use them daily: chemicals – some also in the form of nanomaterials – are in the paint on our walls, in plastic bottles, in the toothpaste in our bathrooms and in the salt in our cupboards. There is no full picture yet of the adverse effects of nanomaterials on people and the environment. Knowledge gaps are particularly wide with regard to long-term effects. The risks posed by many classic chemicals, in contrast, are well known – for instance plasticisers, of which some are carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Europe wishes to protect its citizens against such risks. The European Union’s REACH Regulation is designed to facilitate the safe use of chemicals, but does not specifically cover nanomaterials. Some EU member states have nano (product) registries, and the EU itself aims to establish a Nano Observatory. The EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive aims to prevent or at least limit the use of hazardous substances. Yet how effective are all these activities? Where do shortcomings remain in practice? What moves are under way to improve the toolbox? These are among the questions explored by the next issue of eco@work in September 2017.

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