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September 7, 2011

German Advisory Council Releases Report Concerning Precautionary Strategies for Managing Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) released on September 1, 2011, a report entitled Precautionary Strategies for Managing Nanomaterials, which makes recommendations for a “responsible and precautionary development” of nanotechnology. According to SRU, its objective is to allow for innovation while also identifying and reducing risks at an early stage. SRU concludes that while chemical, product, and environmental regulations are “generally applicable” to nanomaterials, the specific characteristics of nanomaterials could impede the application of the regulations. Closing the regulatory gaps “would require a uniform definition for nanomaterials, their treatment as separate substances in chemicals risk assessments and the obligation for manufacturers to submit data sets specifically adapted to nanomaterials.” SRU states that activities that it believes pose “a certain cause of concern are, in particular, the use of nanomaterials in consumer sprays, the growing sales of consumer products containing silver nanoparticles and the production and processing of carbon nanotubes, which are suspected to be carcinogenic — especially those with a high aspect ratio.” To increase transparency regarding the presence of nanomaterials in consumer products, SRU recommends a register for products containing nanomaterials and an extension of existing labeling requirements. The SRU was founded in 1971 to advise the German government and consists of seven university professors from a range of different environment-related disciplines.  SRU’s advice is independent from external instructions.