The European Commission has carried out a review of current legislation in the fields of chemicals, worker protection, products and environmental protection and has concluded that risks posed by nanomaterials can be managed under the current legislative framework.

The review does accept that this position might have to be revisited in due course, as new information on the properties and possible hazards of nanotechnologies comes to light. In particular, the Commission left the door open to amending the REACH regulation to cover substances manufactured in or imported into the EU at levels of under one tonne per year. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on 25 June called for such amendments to be made immediately, on the basis that nanomaterials’ low weight will mean that even large volumes may not breach the one tonne registration threshold. ETUC also called on governments and industry to dedicate more funds to research.

Meanwhile, a new UK/US study has suggested that the introduction of carbon nanotubes into the abdominal cavities of mice may lead to disease symptoms similar to those induced by asbestos fibres, raising the possibility that inhaling carbon nanotubes could pose similar risks to human health as asbestos exposure. Carbon nanotubes are among the many forms of nanomaterials currently produced and have a wide range of potential applications, from sporting goods to electronics and pharmaceuticals.