Global NGO coalition calls for smart nano definition


23rd November 2010

46 NGOs from Europe, USA, South America and Asia are calling on the European Commission to ensure nanomaterials are adequately defined and regulated in the EU. Nanomaterials, used in a variety of everyday products, have been subject to a Europe wide public consultation with a view to finalising their legal definition.

By defining what nanomaterials are, long awaited regulation can finally be put in place to help ensure they are safe for people and the environment. The NGOs are calling on the European Commission to rapidly adopt a ’cautious and broad’ definition [1].

“Regulation has been stuck for many years because of the absence of a definition, so this proposed definition is very much welcome,” says Senior Attorney David Azoulay from the Center of International Environmental Law (CIEL).

“But if the final definition adopted is too narrow and does not include all materials for which there are health concerns, it might render all future regulation useless”, he added.

The recommendations were submitted by green group EEB and CIEL at the close of the consultation last Friday, and the Commission is set to adopt a final definition by the end of the year. The definition would be applicable to all EU legislation addressing nanomaterials [2].

The NGOs in particular welcome specific elements in the draft definition [3], but warn against any attempt to narrow the scope of the definition as it would exclude several materials for which there are already serious health and environmental concerns.

“Scientists have made it clear: there is no scientific basis to limit the definition of nanomaterials to particles below one hundred nanometres. The EU Commission should follow their advice and adopt a broad and cautious definition,” says Louise Duprez, EEB Nanotechnology Policy Officer.

NGOs also call for prompt evaluation analysis to ensure that the final definition includes materials that are already of concern, while avoiding materials that are unlikely to warrant additional scrutiny.

Nanomaterials can appear in many everyday household products such as socks, tennis racquets and computer keyboards: “We urgently need risk management measures to ensure that companies only place safe nanomaterials on the market,” says Vito Buonsante, Health and Environment lawyer from ClientEarth.



Louise Duprez, EEB Nanotechnology Policy Officer, +32 (0) 2289 1307,

Simon Nazer, EEB Press Officer, +32 (0) 2289 1309,

David Azoulay, CIEL Senior Attorney, +41 (0)787 578 756,

Vito Buonsante, ClientEarth Health and Environment lawyer, +32(0)2 808 34 72 ,

Notes to editors:

Organisations who have signed:

1. Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
2. European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
3. Client Earth
4. European Environmental Citizens' Organisation for Standardisation
5. Food and Water Watch Europe
6. Friends of the Earth Europe
7. Greenpeace Europe
8. Health & Environment Alliance
9. Health Care Without Harm Europe
10. Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO –ECSDE)
11. Pesticide Action Network Europe
12. Women in Europe for a Common Future
13. Action For Breast Cancer Foundation
14. Associazione Malattie da Intossicazione Cronica e/o Ambientale
15. Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND/ FoE Germany)
16. Deutscher Naturschutzring
17. EU Environmental Bureau Austria / EU-Umweltbüro
18. Federation inter-environnement Wallonie
19. France nature Environnement
20. Initiativ Liewensufank
21. Institute for Sustainable Development
22. International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Luxembourg
23. International Chemical Secretariat – ChemSec (Sweden)
24. Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk e.V. / Pesticide Action Network - Germany
25. The Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA)
26. APROMAC (Associaçao de Proteçao ao meio Ambiante de Cianorte ) (Brésil)
27. Center for Food Safety (USA)
28. Centro de Análisis y Acción en Tóxicos y sus Alternativas (CAATA) (Mexico)
29. Citizen against chemical pollution (Japan)
30. Commonweal (USA)
31. Confederacion General del Trabajo de la Replublica Argentina
32. Food and Water Watch US
33. Friends of the Earth United States
34. Grassroots Alliance PERESVET (Russia)
35. Humane Society International (USA)
36. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (USA)
37. International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) (USA)
38. International PoPs Elimination Network (IPEN)
39. Island Sustainability Alliance (C.I.) Inc. (Cook Islands)
40. Nanotechnology Citizen Engagement Organization (NanoCEO) (USA)
41. National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (USA)
42. National Toxic Network Inc. (Australia)
43. Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa (New Zealand)
44. Red de Accion sobre Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina (RAP-AL)/ Pesticide Action Network Latin America (Mexico)
45. SEEPOM (Société d’Education Environnementale et de Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc)
46. Toxisphera (Brazil)

[1] NGOs recommendations in response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the definition of the term ‘nanomaterial’, November 2010

[2] European Commission’s draft recommendation on the definition of the term ‘nanomaterial’

[3] The NGOs in particular welcome the inclusion of the below in the draft definition:

• The inclusion of aggregates and agglomerates;
• The calculation of size distribution on the basis of particle number as opposed to mass;
• The adoption of a 1% threshold for particle number size distribution to consider a material a nanomaterial.

For more info, please contact:

Tatiana SANTOS

Senior Policy Officer: Chemicals & Nanotechnology

+32 (0) 2 289 10 94