IoN Comments on Banning Use of Nanoparticles

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:34 pm    Post subject: IoN Comments on Banning Use of Nanoparticles Reply with quote

Is the UK’s Soil Association Right to Ban the Use of Nanoparticles in its Certified Products?

The UK’s Soil Association has announced a total ban on the use of manufactured nanoparticles in any of its products. The reason? In its opinion nanoparticles are hazardous and the human body unable to respond to this threat. The Institute of Nanotechnology (IoN) believes that such a statement and blanket ban is extreme, ill-thought through, and without a proper explanation and justification, is likely to unjustifiably alarm the public.

Firstly, every human being is exposed to nanoparticles on a daily basis. The vast majority of these nanoparticles (over 90%) derive from natural sources such as erosion, and volcanic eruption. Of the rest, the majority are produced by combustion, such as from fires and diesel engines. Most ‘natural’ nanoparticles, in general terms, can be tolerated by the body, however there are clear health problems associated with those that are the product of burning diesel or other fuels. If the soil association wished to ban the most pervasive human-created nanoparticles, then they should seek to ban all transport that relies on hydrocarbon combustion.

Secondly, it is prudent to consider what is meant by risk. Risk relates to the likelihood of exposure to a hazard. A cliff face can be a hazard, but is not a risk to people living in the Netherlands. It is important to remember that, to comply with legislation, all products used in the cosmetic, health and food industries must be shown to be safe for humans - effectively minimising potential hazard. Additionally, all health and cosmetic products have instructions for their proper application or use, which limits risk. The risk therefore should be no different from that of other cosmetics, health products or food additives.

While the IoN is not complacent of the potential hazards posed by some nanoparticles, this must be put in the proper context. Fundamental research into the potential risks posed to human health and the environment must continue to be supported, but not at the expense of preventing the development of new technologies that could have a significant positive impact on society and the environment.

Changes to regulatory frameworks (such as REACH - new EU regulations for chemicals and their safe use), consultation on codes of conduct, and support for fundamental research on the properties of nanoparticles that need to be measured (and the means to do so) will all contribute to the safe and responsible development of nanotechnology, and the IoN supports this. Nanoparticle research and development offers great potential for environmental benefit, renewable energy generation, and many other applications, and with the present regulatory environment which militates against any harmful chemical, the Soil Association is in grave risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this instance.

Of course, it is worth remembering that soils gain their wonderful properties because of nanoparticles of clay and silica, many of which are exactly the same as those nanoparticles used in cosmetics!

Read the Soil Association Press Release...
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