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Australian Unions Call for Strong Regulatory Oversight of Nanotechnology

Posted to the IUF website 20-Sep-2007

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The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has joined the international coalition of public interest, environmental and trade union organizations in signing the Declaration on the Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterial, of which the IUF was an initial signatory. Other trade union groups which have signed on include the ITUC and the US AFL-CIO, BCTGM and United Steelworkers. The declaration outlines eight fundamental principles necessary for adequate and effective oversight and assessment of the emerging field of nanotechnology

ACTU Occupational Health and Safety Officer Steve Mullins said “By signing this declaration, the ACTU is sending the clear message that profit at the expense of workers lives will not be tolerated, Governments and business are falling over themselves to make Australia a commercial hub for the potential 2.5 trillion dollar nanotechnology industry but lip service is being paid to the occupational health and safety risks.

"Already hundreds of products containing nanomaterials are on the market, including popular sunscreens. The ACTU is concerned about the research showing the potential for serious health impacts on workers exposed during the manufacturing of products using nanomaterials. Studies indicate that ultrafine particles are more toxic than larger particles on a mass for mass basis and current research has identified the potential for a number of disturbing health impacts including lung and cardiovascular disease, brain damage and central nervous system disorders.

“There is no government regulation in Australia to control the unique risks posed to workers or consumers or to regulate the manufacturers and importers of nano-products This is a potential time bomb."