EU round up – Brussels drops idea of special nanotechnology law

15 November 2012

Paint and coatings companies using nanoparticles in the European Union (EU) will not have to contend with a special nanotechnology environmental health law after the European Commission opposed creating such legislation.

This follows a long review, where some environmentalists have pushed the idea, citing the unusual behaviour of nanoparticles, notably how they migrate within consumers’ bodies. However, the Commission has now decided that existing EU chemical controls, especially the REACH system, are suitably equipped to ensure the safety of products including nanoparticles.

In a communiqué, it said it was "convinced that REACH sets the best possible framework for the risk management of nanomaterials…”

However, it said REACH guidelines would need modifying to deal with nanoparticles and said the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) should develop new guidance for registrations after the next major deadline for registering chemicals, next May 31, (2013). And, it added, that the legal definition of nanoparticles – between 1 and 100 billionth-of-a-metre – would be written into relevant EU legislation.

Controls on acetic anhydride

Meanwhile, the Commission has proposed tightening drug precursor customs controls for the wood preservative acetic anhydride, which can be used to make heroin.

Existing rules tell EU companies to register any production or trading. The Commission now wants end-user companies to register usage of acetic anhydride in industrial processes. Also, the Commission wants to establish a European Database on Drug Precursors collating data on seizures and stopped shipments and listing EU businesses licensed and registered to handle precursors.

  • Elsewhere in the EU, the Council of Ministers has approved a shake-up of its special low duty system for poor exporting countries, which is expected to change tariffs paid on a wide range of metals on their entry into the EU. Ministers backed a revised generalised system of preferences (GSP) for tariffs, with special low duties henceforth "concentrated on least developed, low income and lower middle-income countries…”, said a council communiqué.
  • This means richer emerging market paint exporting countries such as China, Russia and Brazil could attract higher EU tariffs for their exports. Also, countries, which have secured special trade access through bilateral trade deals, such as Chile, Mexico and South Korea, would be excluded from the scheme. The changes come into force from January 2014.

New screening for IT-based REACH registration dossiers
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has conducted a new IT-based screening of all REACH registration dossiers for chemical intermediates, admitting filings thus far had "raised serious quality and potential compliance concerns”. It has written to 574 chemical-based companies asking them to resubmit their REACH registration dossiers, noting there were problems with 2388 filings made thus far involving 760 substances.

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