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April 15, 2009

Australian Unions Call for Regulation of Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 14, 2009, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) issued a press release entitled “Nanotech Poses Possible Health and Safety Risk to Workers and Needs Regulation.” According to ACTU, “[t]he rapidly growing nanotechnology market in Australia requires urgent regulation to protect the health and safety of workers and consumers.” ACTU notes that, currently, there is no mandatory register in Australia of who is importing, manufacturing, supplying, or selling nanomaterials, and no requirement to label products.

ACTU recommends the following actions:

  • Classification of nanoscale chemicals as new chemicals under the National Industrial Chemicals and Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS);
  • Development by government agencies of new standards for the handling of nanotechnology;
  • A mandatory requirement that all commercial products containing nanomaterials be labeled;
  • Establishment of a federal registry of all companies and organizations manufacturing, importing, and supplying products containing nanomaterials;
  • Establishment of a tripartite body to oversee the implementation of this regulatory framework;
  • Adoption of the “Precautionary Principle” when dealing with nanomaterials;
  • Development and improvement of hazard identification, assessment, and control mechanisms for nanomaterials;
  • Enforcement of new exposure standards using an active inspectorate; and
  • Monitoring of the health impacts on Australian workers involved in nanotechnology and investment in related medical research.