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Parliamentary questions
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6 May 2010
by Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE)
to the Commission

 Subject: Impact on consumer health of products containing nanoparticles
 Answer in writing 

Many household products, from paints to vitamins and cosmetics, contain nanoparticles of chemical substances or elements. However, manufacturers are not required to indicate on the packaging whether or not those products contain nanoparticles, so that a well‑informed choice can be made.

Recent scientific studies have shown that exposure to nanoparticles of titanium and zinc dioxide, found in such products, can cause genetic defects and inflammations that increase the risk of a certain form of cancer developing(1). Among the other applications concerned are the zirconium and cerium nanoparticles used as additives in dental materials, tricalcium phosphate nanoparticles used in orthopaedic implants and silver nanoparticles used in textile production. Nowadays, a large proportion of research into the development of new products and materials centres on harnessing the benefits that nanoparticles can offer in terms of product efficiency and reduced costs.

In view of the manufacturing sector’s growing interest in using nanoparticles in products, it is important that there be no rush to place such products on the market, for financial reasons, before their impact on health is sufficiently clarified, in the interests of consumer safety. The examples given above show that it has been possible for some products containing nanoparticles to enter the market before specialist studies have revealed any potential adverse effects on health.

1. What action has the Commission taken on products containing nanoparticles that have already entered the market and whose health risks have been revealed by subsequent scientific studies?

1. Has the precautionary principle been adhered to in the case of products containing nanoparticles that may have a damaging impact on health and which entered the market before that impact was known?

1. Is the current legislative framework adequate for addressing the specific issue of products containing nanoparticles, or does the Commission intend to bring forward a legislative proposal to amend the REACH legislation to make it compulsory for manufacturers to indicate that their products contain nanoparticles?

(1)Benedicte Trouiller, Ramune Reliene, Aya Westbrook, Parrisa Solaimani and Robert H. Schiestl: Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles Induce DNA Damage and Genetic Instability in vivo in Mice – Cancer Research 69, 8784, 15 November 2009, doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-2496

Original language of question: ROOJ C 138 E, 07/05/2011
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