Experts on Sustainability Council’s nanoparticles report

The Sustainability Council of New Zealand released a report this week looking at what it describes as the “rising tide of consumer products containing nanomaterials” that haven’t yet had risk assessments.

News reports this week drawing on information contained in the report look specifically at cosmetics on sale in New Zealand that contain nanoparticles that the cosmetics industry in Europe claims need further safety testing before they should be included in new products.

The report notes: “The cosmetics are part of a rising tide of consumer products containing nanomaterials that have been put on the New Zealand market without risk assessment by ERMA and often before the information is at hand to allow such analysis”.

The Science Media Centre rounded up reaction from nanotechnology experts:

Professor Richard Blaikie, Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, comments:

“I think that the report is quite reasonable for the Sustainability Council to put out, and they have valid concerns. They also highlight good practice in NZ with F&P acting responsibly in not adding ‘nano-silver’ functionality to their product lines just to follow the lead of other white ware manufacturers.

“Are the regulations too lax? Well, that’s much harder for a physical scientist to answer as it goes to the heart of ‘acceptable risk’ and risk management. However, as an individual I am not overly concerned (particularly as I am not a big user of cosmetic products).”

Dr Simon Brown, Associate Professor of Physics, University of Canterbury, comments:

“I think that the report is very moderate and reasonable. Other NGOs around the world have been much more strident, and I think that the Sustainability Council’s report should be applauded for its constructive approach. I think the issues raised are generally right on the money. It is indeed very concerning that, for example, cosmetics containing buckyballs appear to be on the market in NZ, when they have been withdrawn from sale in Australia. It is also concerning that the regulators do not seem interested in applying the few regulations that have been put in place: ERMA’s Cosmetics Group Standard is not being enforced.”


In response to the above, we received the following comment from Garth Wyllie, Executive Director of the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) of New Zealand:

“Having read [the] comments by Professor Richard Blaikie, I must disagree.

“Firstly there are a number of flaws in the sustainability council report in relation to cosmetics containing nano-materials. None of our members had the quoted Fullerenes in their products sold in New Zealand. However even if they had, New Zealand follows extremely closely the European Union Cosmetic Directive and should such ingredients be deemed harmful by the EU and either restricted or banned, New Zealand’s ERMA would follow suit at the next yearly review of the Cosmetic Group Standard.

“Secondly cosmetic companies are very cautious about what ingredients they use and look to any science before deciding to use or not use an ingredient whether it is at nano scale or not. Some companies have chosen to err on the side of caution but this does not mean the ingredient at a nano scale is unsafe and where there is any proven scientific reason to restrict an ingredient due to health and safety concerns, the industry through bodies such as the CTFA would fully support that action. This has on occasion mean that the CTFA in New Zealand has supported banning of ingredients such as MMA ahead of the adoption of such a ban in Europe.

“In the case of nano materials there is yet to be any conclusive health and safety risk identified in spite of around 5 separate reviews currently being conducted worldwide to assess the risks based on scientific evidence. Should those reviews produce a proven risk then the industry would support appropriate restrictions but not before.

“Lastly the sustainability council report quoted products being removed from shelves in Australia and Europe however there is no actual evidence of this and there is no restriction on the use of nano-material that would cause this to be the case in these markets.

“To say that Australia was ahead of New Zealand in regulation is factually untrue. New Zealand is actually well ahead of Australia in cosmetics regulation by following the EU regulation which often means that ingredients are restricted or banned in New Zealand that are not restricted in Australia. Through our unified regulation under the ERMA in New Zealand we effectively get a single point of control based on common sense and appropriate risk management. The industry does not always get what we would like under the ERMA but we do believe that this system is far superior to that applied across multiple agencies in Australia where even understanding what laws apply is incredibly difficult.”