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Update on Nano Labelling Laws

November 25, 2009

Late last week the European Union agreed to the adoption of a set of new rules governing the safety and marketing of cosmetic products. Contrary to what some NGO’s would have us believe, the cosmetics industry has been regulated (albeit self-regulated) since the first cosmetic directive was introduced in the 1970’s.  So, while the industry has always strived to provide the public with safe, effective and high quality products it is  legislative frameworks such as  this that ensure everyone is singing from the same song sheet so to speak.

So, the new law states that nano particles present in cosmetic formulations have to be listed on the label.  Now while this gives the public greater transparency, I do wonder what people are going to do with that information. You can read an earlier post on this topic here.

The majority of people would not have any idea of what a nanoparticle is, looks like or what it could do (good or bad) for the skin / general health or the environment.  That doesn’t mean that we are all stupid, it means that most people do not have chemistry or physics backgrounds. Oh,  and even those of us that do need to take a whole new lesson in all things nano to understand the consequences in using these materials. So, what are we to do with this information? aren’t all chemicals used in cosmetics supposed to be safe (as per Cosmetic Directive) ?  Oh and while we are at it,  What are the benefits of nano anyway?

While  I  can answer some of my questions there are clearly gaps in the scientific data as to the long-term implications of these tiny particles. Is this alarming or surprising? Not when you consider that we live in a global economy where growth, innovation and speed to market are king (or queen). This is, to a large extent how science works these days. Something great comes along, it is tested according to the laws and best practice of the day,  the due diligence box is ticked and we go to market all glossy and shiny.  And this is fine until….

…… We get a hangover.


Now, to view what is happening to the nanotechnology ingredients market as a hangover is a bit trivial. This is ground breaking science that is being applied not just to lipsticks but to life saving and ultimately planet saving inventions. However, there really is a feeling of “party’s over” and as the sun pokes its head above the horizon once more we just  have to pop ourselves an aspirin and decide what road we take next. After all, abstinence may give us the moral high ground (and yes, it has its place) but there is a party going on and we are all invited.

So, if you want sunscreens that don’t contain chemicals (according to marketing depts Zinc and Titanium are chemical free!) or want to look younger without a facelift  (many anti-ageing creams contain nano technology) you may want to keep posted as “nano” may be coming to a label near you SOONISH.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    November 25, 2009 2:55 pm

    interesting discussion. I think they should be labelled so people can make a informed choice about what they want to put on their bodies. As you point out, it may be labelled if it’s coming from a EU country, but if it’s manufactures in Asian it may not be… watch this space

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