Nanoproducts: how to enlighten consumers?


More than 1600 consumer products containing nanomaterials or nanotechnologies have been marketed worldwide, with almost 500 on the European market. The most widely used nanomaterial is nanosilver, followed by titanium dioxide and carbon nanotubes. For the consumer, the most direct way to identify the presence of nanomaterials is through the label on packaging. However, regulations only require [nano] labelling for cosmetics and biocides, and for food from December 2014. 

The threshold for this statement excludes materials larger than 100 nanometres. In this context, how can the consumer find his way around? What is the effect of [nano] labels on product choice? What information is required to complement this labelling? What could [No nano] labelling mean? What can be done to better inform citizens? The last NanoResp forum tried to answer these questions, before the next one which will take place on Monday 17 November.

In response, the September 2014 NanoResp Forum hosted :

- Mathieu Brugidou, Energy, Technology and Society Research Group - ICAME, EDF R&D
- Dominique Gombert, Director of Risk Assessment, National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Anses)
- Camille Helmer, Head of Regulatory Affairs / Labelling Quality and Nutrition Department of the National Association of Food Industries (ANIA)
- Olivier Toma, Chairman of the Committee for Sustainable Development in Health (C2DS)
- Jean-Michel Bérard (replacing Alain Elie), Association for the Defence, Education and Information of Consumers (ADEIC)

and Dorothée Browaeys, deputy editor-in-chief of UP' Magazine, former founder and director of VivAgora.

The NanoRESP forum was born out of the activities of the VivAgora association, in particular the NanoForum desired by William Dab, then Director General of Health, and carried out at the CNAM between 2007 and 2009. Following the national debate organized by the National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP), the government was slow to set a course to launch an agenda for discussion with society and stakeholders on nanotechnologies. At the time, however, it had expressed two wishes: to inform the stakeholders, and to set up a permanent forum to both pass on information and make the channels robust by restoring confidence in the interplay between actors. This twofold perspective did not
has not been acted upon.
For its part, the VivAgora association has developed certain actions in the following areas such as a citizen-business dialogue on the Saclay Plateau or a small scale dialogue with the L'Oréal group on sun products containing nanotitanium. 

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Today, the NanoRESP forum is backed by the idea, which had been discussed at the French Agency for Standardization (Afnor), of a "cooperative vigilance" on nanotechnologies, which, among other things, raises the prospect of a "nano standard". Jean-Marc Aublant, from the Laboratoire national de métrologie et d'essais (LNE), is monitoring this reference system that is currently being developed.
NanoRESP is first and foremost a series of regular meetings supported by by an alliance of actors who think it is useful to have a permanent dialogue on our skills, our knowledge, our uncertainties. We can clearly see, for example, its importance in the building sector. The alliance is made up, with the support of the association Entreprises pour l'environnement (EpE), of several private players: BASF France, the Fédération française du bâtiment (FFB), the Association technique de l'industrie des liants hydrauliques (ATILH), the SMABTP foundation, EDF R&D and, more recently, LNE. The steering committee includes some members of the alliance and players from associations, research organisations such as Ineris, and journalists.

The forum is experimental: this type of dialogue carried out by private actors interested in the general interest is indeed not usual. The context of NanoRESP is a public space full of uncertainty, of ignorant decisions, where we have to identify ourselves in our respective responsibilities. This is why it is useful, in relation to the question raised about consumer information, public opinion, to start by clearly defining what this public space is.

Mathieu BrugidouEDF R&D, a member of the Copil de NanoRESP, starts the forum with a preliminary intervention :
"EDF is working on the possible applications of nanotechnologies for energy. Since the 1980s, EDF R&D, a human and social sciences group, has been working on the possible applications of nanotechnologies for energy. is interested in the interactions between science, technology and society. To speak of public opinion is indeed to speak of a public space constituted by the media in particular. Thus, if we look at the number of publications devoted to nanotechnologies in the English-speaking press since the 1990s, we see a clear increase in the 2000s, backed by events such as the launch of research programs in the United States and Europe, early warnings, or the creation of a public issue around nanotechnologies in Europe. In France, the press has also taken an interest in it; this is what the sociologist's work highlights Francis Chateauraynaud, through participation dedicated to nanotechnology. For the public space is also a series of debates and websites dealing with these issues, which have multiplied in the early 2000s. 

If we now take stock of public opinion in the sense of opinion polls, the conclusion is simple: there is strictly speaking no public opinion on this subject! In 2010, only 46 % of Europeans had heard of nanotechnology. Among those who had an opinion, they did not agree on the existence of risks for future generations, nor on the presence of health and environmental risks. The
proportion of those who believed that nanotechnology will have a negative impact had doubled in five years was 5 to 10 %, but 41 % believed that these impacts will be positive.
The inequity of the distribution of risks and benefits seemed obvious to them. Overall, the perception of benefits and risks varied quite widely across application sectors (health, electronics, energy; food and cosmetics). This distribution of risks is linked to the sense of personal and collective control of risks based on socio-cultural factors, the trust placed in
authorities and the perception of the veracity of the information.

Another "public opinion", perhaps more important for what we are dealing with, is the one perceived by economic actors. They anticipate the public's perceptions, including negative reactions. According to the 2013 interministerial report, the low level of private investment in France reflects "a concern of investors specific to France in the field of nanotechnologies (...)". (1). The previous GMO influences them.
It's not that simple, though. In 2001, the sociologist Claire Marris compared the representations of GMOs by ordinary citizens and by economic actors. The latter often portray themselves as a public with a mistrustful and irrational view of science and technology, a public that wants zero risk. However, focus groups with the public show that the situation is much more
nuanced. It is quite recurrent in the social sciences to measure that lay people in discussion situations have much more balanced opinions than those anticipated by economic actors. I don't think that nanotechnology is an exception to this.

To sum up, there is therefore a great diversity of public perceptions of nanomaterials according to their fields of application, and on the part of economic actors a perception of risks to the development of nanomaterials linked to the idea they have of public opinion ("reputational risks"). The "construction" of the public is thus part of nanotechnology development programs (work by Brice Laurent, 2011, 2013, etc.). (2). However, opinion is created above all around crises and controversies, and the work done by intermediary bodies to report on them. Issues of governance and trust between actors are therefore central to reducing regulatory, health, economic and political uncertainties.

Dominique Gombert of the ANSES intervenes in its turn :

"In France, information on nanomaterials today comes in particular from the reports resulting from the mandatory declaration of substances in the nanoparticle state. (3).
The first reporting exercise, the results of which were published in November 2013, was a pilot and pioneering exercise, with 3,500 declarations made by a mere 1,000 registrants. Between 240 and 410 substances (identified by a CAS (4) or by chemical name) have been declared. Four main families of nanomaterials, in terms of tonnage, appeared: carbon black, silica, titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, with broad categories of uses: paints, agriculture, cosmetics, food, coatings, etc. This declaration has exerted a certain driving force in Europe, with Belgium and other EU member countries reflecting on the
deployment of such a declaration. In France, the description of the market is likely to be refined with the 2014 declaration. From a risk assessment point of view, the vision has become clearer but remains largely to be refined: we need precise information on the hazards associated with the substances and on the activities that expose the general population or the professional population.

On the other hand, with regard to consumer information, this declaration remains imperfect because it does not give a list of articles or products in which nanomaterials would be found. It's more like Galileo's telescope than Hubble's telescope: we have an outline of the types of materials and uses. More generally, for the distribution of products such as cosmetics or soon food products, the question arises as to what it means for a consumer to see a "nanos" label on a package. Is it information? What message do we want to convey? We can assume that what is on the market does not present any risks; yes, but is it always
the case, given the uncertainties? These questions are complicated to deal with. It should also be noted that one nanomaterial escapes the declaration radar: nano-silver, which is likely to be included in items already placed on the market. We are currently working on this issue with the Ministry of Ecology - a report on nano-silver will soon be published by the Anses - as well as on avenues for progress to better describe the market. At the end of the year, there will also be a reflection on a simplified risk assessment tool. One last point: within the agency, two experiences of dialogue committees, which meet once a quarter, allow for exchanges on the state of knowledge and work programmes.

Camille HelmerThe ANIA is also involved in :

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"ANIA, which has existed since 1968, brings together not companies but sectors of activity, 21 regional federations and 22 sectors of activity. The agri-food industry is the leading industrial sector in France, with a turnover of around 160 billion, 13,000 companies, including 97 % of SMEs and VSEs. It is also the leading industrial employer sector. ANIA's role is to promote, develop and inform around six major themes, including quality and nutrition, representing the food chain between agriculture and distribution.
In the "nano" field, it is the complexity of the regulations that strikes, adding to an already rather dense agri-food legislation. Thus, the labelling of nanomaterials will become mandatory in food from December 2014. But the new European Commission, which is being set up, must work on a proposal to define the materials concerned. It is unlikely that before December 2014, there will be an
new definition of nanomaterials as planned. This has led to a very uncomfortable situation for operators in the field.

The first definition applied on the labelling of nano-ingredients was adopted in 2011, in the framework of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 reforming food labelling rules. Previously, there were two European directives (general labelling and nutrition labelling) which were merged into a single regulation to make life easier for professionals. The core of the regulation was mandatory nutrition labelling and origin labelling. The "nanos" were added during the discussions. This text provided a definition of nanomaterials with mandatory labelling. However, this definition is both technical and unclear, so it may leave the
perplexed professionals. So are our regulators. We note that the definition refers to "any intentionally produced material". Of course, we understand the objective, which was to exclude products that may naturally contain nanomaterials, but
to apply to products resulting from new techniques producing materials of 100 nanometres or less with typical nanoscale properties. But are "typical nanoscale properties" a relevant criterion in practice? Normal-scale titanium is white, and is therefore used as a cover. At the nanoscale it becomes transparent. In this case, the notion of "typical nanoscale properties" is well understood, but is this criterion applicable and relevant in all cases? Wouldn't the size "below 100 nm" be sufficient to qualify the material? This definition therefore raises many questions for professionals and institutions, hence its forthcoming revision.
On the recommendation of the European Commission's technical centre, the European Commission proposed a definition in 2011. At that time, the Commission referred to the threshold of 50 %, stressing that it could however be modified according to the sectors of activity. Today, the Commission could draw inspiration from its 2011 recommendation when it makes its new proposal for a definition of "nano to be labelled".
We are therefore in an in-between situation, with a definition to be applied but poorly understood, and a definition to come at an unspecified date. This is a problem for companies that have to prepare labels. For the agri-food industry, there is another draft definition. So in total for the food industry, at the European level, there is a definition in a European recommendation for any sector of activity, a definition in a European regulation and a "future" definition to replace this current definition.
In addition to all this, there is the French system for the declaration of substances in the nanoparticle state. With concepts that are difficult to understand, such as "substances in the nanoparticulate state", "substances in the nanoparticulate state contained in a mixture without being bound to it"; or "materials intended to release such substances under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use". The complexity of the regulations and their evolution complicate the life of companies. They have to turn to their suppliers, authorities and scientific agencies for answers to the technical questions that are accumulating.

We are often asked whether food regulations cover nanomaterials. Yes, thanks to the very rich regulatory framework that covers our sector: the general framework on consumer safety; the regulation on innovation and novel foods with the consideration of the "nano" aspect (text under revision); the regulation on additives with a 2008 regulation that specifies that any new additive
involving nanotechnology or reducing the size of ingredients needs to be re-authorised; the regulation on labelling; the regulation on packaging with the issue of nano-objects present in these materials.
On a daily basis, regulatory obligations and food safety are paramount. The nano issue is secondary. As for the mandatory national declaration, it raises specific questions: who must declare? The case of silica, an additive used by the food industry, is regularly cited. It is mainly an intentionally manufactured silicon dioxide (SiO2), which has been examined by several scientific bodies before being authorised for use as a food additive. It is a powder placed on the market as a set of micrometer-sized agglomerates, whose internal structure is nanometric in size; i.e. large grains consisting of tiny grains. For the ANIA, the question being asked today is how this powder fits into the current definitions.

In conclusion, ANIA is not a body of scientific experts. The question it is concerned with today is how to understand the existing definitions and how to meet the obligations arising from them. On the broader issue of "nano" information, we wonder: how will the consumer welcome such labelling? What will they understand if the label "nano-additive" is affixed when it is a non-"innovative" additive that has been used and evaluated for decades? Will it lead to a general rejection? A new GMO case?

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys What will be the impact of the regulation on the organic industry? Those who want to eat organic might want a "no nano" label.

Camille Helmer There is no distinction to be made between organic and non-organic: all foods must respect the same conditions of production and safety for the consumer, as organic has additional constraints in terms of the environment. It is an aberration to want to
no nano" labelling under current definitions.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys : What was the proportion of nanomaterials declared in the agri-food field?

Dominique Gombert The 2013 report had identified 83 types of uses. The manufacture of food products accounted for 2.6 % of the uses reported for all 2013 reports. But we will have to wait a few years to see, according to the evolution of the declarations, which are the most significant types of uses and those whose proportion is evolving.

Christophe Bressot, Ineris: I understand the concern of professionals in the agri-food industry about labelling. But this industry has the chance to come second, if I may say so, after cosmetics. But I don't think there has been a general panic on this subject in this
sector. Many products are labelled "nanos" without any particular problem. In the food industry, you can therefore be confident in this respect.

Camille Helmer I wouldn't go your way. Historians and sociologists explain that consumers do not have the same relationship to what they put on their skin as they do to what they ingest. They pay less attention to the label on a sunscreen than they do to the label on a food. The "carnal" relationship with food remains very strong.

Olivier Toma, C2DS: The C2DS is an association of hospitals, clinics and retirement homes, i.e. health and medico-social establishments linked to a whole range of companies working in construction, catering, tourism, etc. I chair this association
after running several establishments. On the "nano" issue, we are concerned for two reasons. First, we are buying products that contain nanoparticles without knowing the risks to our patients and staff. Secondly, we have a vocation to be exemplary and to educate the people we welcome; when we distribute products and
services we're not sure about, we're in an awkward position. For these reasons, we recently sent the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Ecology and the Presidency of the Republic recommendations on the National Health and Environment Plan (PNSE3), in which a chapter is dedicated to these subjects.
The risks have several origins. Firstly, construction materials, since our establishments represent 100 million square meters in France: there are many nanoparticle-based products that pose problems, either during their manufacture or when they are installed by other employees, who do not necessarily have the right recommendations for protection, or at the time of their end of life and their reprocessing in specific sectors such as asbestos, for which we have very little information.
The second source of risk is renovation and maintenance, which account for 90 % of a facility manager's time. We are harassed by many industrialists who sell products containing nanomaterials, with misleading and unbearable claims such as "self-cleaning tiles". Self-cleaning photocatalysis works in the laboratory on small surfaces, but in the real life of a hospital it has no impact on cleaning, we tested it.
We are also sold air handling units to improve indoor air quality. On this subject, I deplore the fact that the Ministry of Ecology has just come back to a key measure from the Grenelle de l'environnement which provided for the obligation to measure VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in schools on 1 January 2015. Yet these VOCs are a real scourge, a major invisible risk. We took part in the study of indoor air quality in some fifty buildings open to the public. The results cannot even be published, however, given the quantity and condensation of pollutants detected, some of which are carcinogenic and reprotoxic, and others with nanoparticles.
The third source of risk is food, since our establishments serve several million meals a day. Nanomaterials are found in food packaging and in the form of additives (titanium dioxide, silica oxide, E551).
The fourth axis is textiles, with "stain-free", "no-cleaning" fabrics and professional clothing, which for us is totally disingenuous when we know that nanoparticles leave quickly in the wash.
A final area of concern is represented by cosmetics, particularly for maternity wards where advice to mothers can offer creams containing nanoparticles. In the end, the hospital at the rest of society is very much affected by products for which we don't have the necessary expertise. proof of safety. Therefore, it is requested that the NSPH put in place an authorization for placing on the market of these products to see if they can be used and destroyed without risks. We have not yet received a formal response to this request.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys One may be surprised at your alarmist side. Don't nanoproducts also have advantages?

Olivier Toma Indeed, in a few minutes, my analysis can give this impression. Some nanomaterials may have advantages in treating diseases, for example, but it is useless and dangerous to mass-market products that are not safe for the general public.
containing nanoparticles of unknown toxicity. For example, brands are distributing socks that supposedly do not get dirty. This is a scam, since nanoparticles are found in water and drinking water. You can expect a backlash!

Jean-Michel Bérard, Adeic : I apologise for Alain Elie who couldn't be there as planned. At ADEIC, our starting point for analyzing the situation of nanomaterials is the report and opinion of the National Consumer Council (CNC) of June 2010. (5). We are struck by the fact that, on most of the questions and recommendations raised in these texts, we receive very little feedback on the follow-up given to them. Generally speaking, the results obtained are little known and disseminated, including for us, ADEIC.
The report is nevertheless impressive to read: at the time, it seemed essential to manage risks in such a way as to have "real control of exposure" - we have just seen that this is not the case in hospitals; to have "appropriate means of prevention implemented by companies": to be able to prevent, one would still need to know the dangers. The "tracing", via a public health observatory, of the damage attributable to nanotechnologies was supposed to be necessary.
It seems to us that some progress has been made but that much remains to be done, particularly in terms of consumer information: we should know how to name, describe and specify, and better qualify the risks for each type of nanoproduct. Furthermore, as a physicist, I am not sure that the definition of nanomaterials should be based on their dimensions, since it is the properties that matter.
What are we doing at the Adeic? The association is a member of Afnor's commission on nanotechnology, but that's about it. What could we do? It would have to be in relation with other associations since nanotechnology is a capital industrial field that concerns many people. ADEIC and other associations are asking the public authorities to take charge - by putting in place the necessary means, and in consultation with the associations (including ADEIC) - of the drafting of educational sheets for consumers and consumer education in schools, colleges and high schools. The level of scientific and technical culture is generally fairly low among the population, and this culture is not widely recognized as essential by political leaders whose culture is no better. The definition of "enlightened citizen" is a complex issue on which we should all work together to ensure that everyone is able to participate in public debates on complex issues.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys : I note one point that would be interesting to discuss: is size, not properties and functions, the relevant criterion for defining nanomaterials? Would it be possible to change course from the point of view of the repository, leave this level of the
100 nanometers to enlarge it and consider all the particles that could be a problem?

Dominique Gombert : This is indeed an important point. We have both mentioned the existence of a certain number of regulatory benchmarks. Thus, the definitions of nanomaterials come from consensus in different circles, and they continue to make
debate. But for risk assessment, it is even more complex: we must realize that it is a set of parameters that determine us, because it is this set that allows us to precisely reference a nanomaterial. Indeed, within the same family of compounds, titanium dioxides for example, nanomaterials can behave very differently. This is a complex issue: beyond labeling, risk assessment is confronted with a very broad universe of nanomaterial behaviors.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys The other side of the characterization is the advantages brought by such or such nanomaterial in terms of uses. By not specifying the novelty, the benefit, we blur the reading of what the nanomaterial represents for society.

Dominique Gombert : We talk about risk first because that's what is expected of us as a risk assessment agency. And the last few years have made it possible to better identify the materials that pose the greatest risks. For all that, I do think that a useful recommendation is to ask the question of the uses and interest of nanomaterials.
The example of odourless socks is often cited and we are reproached for it, but it is indicative of the relevance of the notion of use. Won't we have regrets in the future for not having sufficiently characterized the uses that are really necessary?

Hadrien Lepage, Nanothinking: For me, the example of nano-silver socks is not relevant. Nanosilver is
primarily used for the bactericidal properties of silver, not for its nanoscale properties. It is used systematically but wrongly in my opinion, especially since it represents a small volume.

Dominique Gombert We take it back because it is symbolic of the relevance of the uses. You say that nano-silver is not important in terms of volume. In fact, we don't know that. Moreover, it is a product with bactericidal qualities that are being promoted when we know that they will
disappear into the environment. This is typically one of the examples that should prompt us to think collectively. A whole bunch of people import nano-silver antibacterial textiles without knowing that they contain nano-silver. Producers are starting to be unaware of the fact that they contain nano-silver antibacterial textiles.
not so much claiming that presence anymore. I am not saying that it is right or wrong, but that this example raises the question of the relevant uses and the regrets that we may have if we do not resolve this issue.

Caroline Pétigny, BASF France, member of the Copil of NanoRESP: The notion of lack of scientific culture reported by Mr Bérard seems to me
important. It would be simpler indeed if everyone had a good basic level and a rational vision of the problems. The problem is also that of language: the term "nano" is used indiscriminately. I was astonished by Olivier Toma's comments on the invasion of our society by nanoparticles. Indeed, in nanomaterials, there are generally few nanoparticles but mostly agglomerates. The real question is how to manage the complexity of the subject, to inform the consumer with relevant and accurate information. What is the point of having the term "nano" on a label if it is poorly defined or systematically identified with a hazard? The consumer first wants to know if the product is safe.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys : There has been progress in the volume of information available over the last 10 years. But at the end of the chain, do consumers and professional users benefit from all this traceability? Is it useful for anything?

Mathieu Brugidou I would like to rebound on the question of public rationality. It is a never-ending debate because there are not many questions that escape from this: we would have to be very good scientists, very good economists, excellent sociologists, etc., to be able to do well.
understand what's going on in society. It is a starting point for public debate that one cannot be interested, as a citizen, in all the complex technical issues that arise. If one is directly concerned, one can certainly increase one's skills by taking a closer look at them. But most people, including scientists outside their fields of expertise, rely on institutions that are not directly involved in the field.
public or associative organizations that are responsible for carrying out the work of elucidation. This is one of the reasons why the issue of trust is so important.

Jean-Michel Bérard I don't think I quite agree with you. This is in line with the debates at the National Education Ministry on the common knowledge base. Some people say that there is no need to learn any more because everything can be found on the Internet. For my part, I plead in favour of a general culture.
where we would learn anchors, broad principles (energy conservation, for example) that would then allow us to find our way around and aggregate new things throughout life knowing where to place them. I would argue that this basic scientific culture does not exist in the French population.

Jean-Marc AublantLNE: I would like to come back to the state of the art, particularly with regard to the definition of nanomaterials. The size indicated up to "approximately 100 nanometres" allows us to name a product as "nano". Once named, it can and should be
characterized by eight characteristics or properties, which are now accepted as such and are the result of a consensus between physicists and toxicologists. It should be noted, however, that the appropriate instrumental means to characterize them are still in their infancy. These nanomaterials are used for their properties and these are much better known in terms of potential benefits than in terms of risks. The toxicological properties that some of these nanomaterials may exhibit throughout their life cycle have only recently been discovered. However, this is still a long way off, as a risk analysis would require all the basic data for
every type of nanomaterial.
With respect to voluntary standards (6)The only purpose - and this was the consensus of all the countries that worked on this point within ISO TC 229 Nanotechnologies - is to give the consumer a choice: you have nothing against "nano"? Well, buy it; if not, buy something else. There is little more that can be done at the moment, as is the case with the European regulations for
cosmetics and the food industry.

Serge Sebestyen I'm surprised that there is no mention of some known dangers such as carbon nanotubes, which may cause a new asbestos affair. Is it not absurd, beyond the example of nanosilver socks, to throw out materials that are of little or no use when the risk has not been established? Some nanomaterials are useful, particularly in medicine. But putting products on the market that are only marketing makes no sense. Satisfying information for consumers would be to tell them "this is useful, this is not", explaining why.

Fernand Dorodit, member of the Copil of NanoResp: I wanted to come back to the question of consumer choice, raised by Jean-Marc Aublant. Isn't the problem rather the responsibility for what we put on the market?
We should not delude ourselves about the degree of awareness that lay consumers might have about a "nano" qualifier on a package. I am already struck by the state of dissent of an assembly such as ours, made up of people who are nevertheless interested in nanomaterials.
Apart from traceability issues, I do not see the point of nano labelling at all.
On the substance, I am surprised that there is so much discussion on definitions, which are broadly convergent. I am also astonished that in the agri-food sector, it is said that there is no technological breakthrough. This is not true: there is a multiplicity of projects in the field.

Caroline Pétigny The debate on definitions comes from the fact that for a company to manage regulations based on different definitions is very complicated.

Fernand Doridot Yes, but the European definition and the French definition are broadly consistent.

Caroline Pétigny : Actually no, because the scope of application is different. The list of products concerned varies according to the definition used. In the end, it is counterproductive if we want to inform the consumer. To come back to what you were saying, Mr. Sebestyen, did your question about useful innovations or not concern nanos specifically, or was it more general? Many products on the market may not be useful.

Serge Sebestyen My observation is indeed valid for many products. But knowing whether you use properties because it makes it possible to launch a product or whether it is really useful for society is still a particularly strong problem in the case of nanomaterials.
In 2006, we were already fighting over the definition. I understand that it is a headache for a business, but for the consumer it is not the important point.

Daniel Bernard: I am scientific advisor to the Nanosafety Platform of the CEA in Grenoble, President of the Nanotechnology Commission of the Scientific Engineers of France and at the same time scientific advisor to the European Commission for the programme on nanotechnologies and advanced materials. First point: no industrialist will put a dangerous product on the market out of ethics and respect for regulations. It will market it on the basis of its knowledge of these dangers. This knowledge can evolve.

Fernand Doridot As for asbestos, we saw what it did...

Daniel Bernard : We knew perfectly well that asbestos was dangerous as early as 1976. It could have been stopped as early as that time. Asbestos is a problem of transmission of scientific knowledge from academics to government authorities and of political decision making that comes too late. To answer the question about toxic carbon nanotubes, in reality, two families of nanotubes are toxic, and two are not. It depends on the structure: the long and rigid ones are dangerous, the flexible ones are eliminated by macrophages. But the social benefits of these nanomaterials are very clear: for example, Sony has been using them since 1991 in its lithium-ion batteries for cell phones. Without these nanotubes, your phones could not have been miniaturized.

Dorothée Benoit Browaeys : It is clear how difficult it is for consumers to choose the same name.

Nicolas FeltinLNE: For a physicist, the size-based definition is not satisfactory. The main problem is that we have European regulations on the matter but no metrology to try to stick to them. For example, it is impossible to get 50 % of nanoparticles in size, because we do not have the instruments for this. We are also unable to define large families of nanoparticles. Sometimes it's surface properties that play a role, sometimes size properties, shape properties. It is easier to define a chemical molecule because three parameters are sufficient, whereas for a nanoparticle eight or nine parameters are necessary; moreover, they are not necessarily intrinsic but depend on the environment, for example to determine the state of agglomeration of the nanoparticles. Once these properties have been identified, toxic properties must be determined.
But it's complicated. A 2013 article on amorphous silica that reviewed 25 years of toxicological studies showed that one cannot conclude on its toxicity. Furthermore, to say that there is no problem in food seems to me to be a risky thing to say, especially when we know that silica particles are found in yoghurts to make them shiny. Or that, in M&M's, titanium dioxide forms the white shell that gives the candy an attractive colour. I, as a consumer, would prefer to know where the nanoparticles are and what they are used for!

Didier NoëlEDF R&D: In the field of nanotechnologies, there is an explosion of knowledge and ways of doing things compared to previous decades. In this explosion, what strikes me is the infinity of possibilities that go far beyond what we can judge useful or not today. It is only when we have made progress in the processes of innovation that we will know whether such and such material can really be useful. Moreover, the time between asking the question of toxicity and the answer is bound to be long. All the toxicologists in the world would not be able to answer all the questions currently being asked. This will be even more the case in the future.

Yves Genthon, FFB: As a consumer architect for the Building Federation, which consumes and prescribes nanoproducts, I am interested in being told that a product is "nano", if only so that I can inform my clients, the headmistress of the school I am building,
and so on Labelling can therefore make sense.

(1) The industrial deployment of nanotechnologies and synthetic biology in the territories, a precursor to the manufactures of the future, December 2013, page 18.

(2) Laurent B., 2011, Technologies of Democracy: Experiments and Demonstrations, Science and Engineering Ethics, 17, (4), p.649-666.
Laurent B., 2013, Nanomaterials in Political Life: In the Democracies of Nanotechnology, in Brayner R., Fiévet F., Coradin T., (ed.), Nanomaterials: A Danger or a Promise? A Chemical and Biological Perspective, London, Springer, pp.379-399.

(3 ) See 

(4) Chemical Abstract Service, a division of the American Chemical Society. 

(5) Report on consumer information on the presence of nanomaterials in consumer products : Opinion on consumer information on nanomaterials in products of consumption : 

(6)NF CEN CEN ISO/TS 13830 Nanotechnologies - Guidelines for the labelling of consumption containing manufactured nano-objects. 




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