Nano fears grow

Nano-sized components are increasingly used in sunscreens, skincare products and food, yet these components do not always have to be tested.

Metals like zinc and titanium dioxide may be safe to apply on the skin in larger forms but nanoparticles can penetrate cells and tissue and enter the blood stream and lungs. There are fears of links to cancer with some calling nanoparticles "the new asbestos".

Products with nano don't have to be labelled even though a 2008 Legislative Council Standing Committee inquiry into nanotechnology recommended a national mandatory labelling regime for nanoparticles used in the workplace like sunscreens.

Friends of the Earth developed a Safe Sunscreen Guide to help consumers avoid nanoparticles however independent tests found that sunscreens made by two companies marketed as "non-nano" and "nano-particle free" have nanoparticles. A number of popular brands were unaware they've been selling nano products and this week Friends of the Earth asked the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate their research results.

Testing and labelling should be mandatory with independent enforcement. My questions in Parliament asked the NSW Government about its action to pursue a national labelling scheme.

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