UK Soil Association Bans Nanoparticles

The British Soil Association announced it has has banned the use of manmade nanomaterials from all Soil Association-certified organic products. This applies particularly to health and beauty products, but also to food and textiles.

According to the group, it is the first organization in the world to take action against this potentially hazardous technology that could pose a threat to human health. The Soil Association does recognize, however, that there may be benefits from nanotechnology such as the potential to radically and positively transform medicine, by delivering drugs that target specific cells, and for renewable energy such as fuel and solar power.

It reports that US$9 billion per year is being invested globally in nanotechnology and much is going to the development of cosmetics and health products. According to the group, many known companies such as L'Oréal, Unilever, Boots and Lancôme are already developing and introducing these super fine particles into their products, and they are not required to include labelling to warn consumers.

According to the association, there is little scientific understanding about how these substances affect living organisms. Although the government has reportedly acknowledged the risks, no action has been taken to impose controls. Following the precautionary approach, in line with organic principles, the Soil Association Standard's Board has thus banned manufactured nanoparticles as ingredients under its organic standards.

Gundula Azeez, Soil Association policy manager, said in a press announcement: “The Soil Association is the first organization in the world to ban nanoparticles. There should be no place for nanoparticles in health and beauty products or food. We are deeply concerned at the government’s failure to follow scientific advice and regulate products. There should be an immediate freeze on the commercial release of nanomaterials until there is a sound body of scientific research into all the health impacts...."

According to the US Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) (formerly the CTFA), the US Food and Drug Administration's assessment of the safety of nanotechnology in the product categories it regulates does not suggest an identifiable risk that is characteristic of nanotechnology.

According to a statement by John Bailey, excecutive vice president for science, PCPC, "The taskforce also stated its conclusion that products with nanotech do not need to be specially labeled because the current science does not support a finding that products with nanotechnology pose a greater safety concern than products without it."

The controversy continues. Are there even truly nano-sized particles in personal care products? One expert has noted that many formulas agglomerate and thus no longer contain actual nano-sized particles. But as most personal care formulators know, it is the perception of the consumer that matters most.

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