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July 20, 2018

Helsinki Chemicals Forum Includes Debate on Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The tenth Helsinki Chemicals Forum was held on June 14-15, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland.  According to the Conference Report, prepared by Chemical Watch, 168 delegates from 37 countries attended.  The final debate at the Forum used nanomaterials as a case study to argue whether product stewardship can replace regulation.  Roger Drew, ToxConsult, moderated the debate between David Azoulay, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and David Warheit, Ph.D., The Chemours Company.  The Conference Report lists a number of open questions, and provides the following “bottom line” bullet points:

  • While regulation and product stewardship both play a part, the latter is not necessarily sufficient to guarantee the safety of the material;
  • The role of product stewardship is not always clear and must be better defined and communicated;
  • One weakness of product stewardship is that companies do not sufficiently communicate what they do;
  • Instead of stating or suggesting that everything on the market is safe, industry and regulators should be forthcoming about the complexity of the issue and acknowledge that there are still some unknowns; and
  • “There is no such thing as a safe nanomaterial — only safe ways of using nanomaterials. Some knowledge of nanomaterial hazards as directed by regulations is needed.”  Responsible and safe manufacture and use of nanomaterials is possible, however, even in the presence of uncertainty and without complete hazard knowledge.

The Conference Report is “not a formal report,” but rather “aims to be a balanced and accessible reflection of two days of debate as a means to further understanding.”  It provides an “unedited selection of comments and questions raised on the message wall,” including a number of comments regarding the debate.