Relying on the existing resources, the Federal Council continues the action plan for synthetic nanomaterials through the end of 2015, while at the same time setting priorities. It has adopted a report to that effect, which also takes stock of the implementation progress of the 2008 action plan. Effective immediately, the public can also access further information on nanotechnology and nanomaterials on www.infonano.ch.
By continuing the action plan, the Federal Council aims to promote and develop the safe handling of synthetic nanomaterials as well as Switzerland as a nano-location. The primary focus is on developing a methodical basis for nano-specific provisions, thereby creating the prerequisites for appropriate regulation while continuing the dialogue with industry, economic stakeholders, the scientific and research communities as well as consumer organisations.
Today, nanomaterials as well as conventional materials are regulated through chemicals, food and therapeutic products legislation. Data and safety requirements for registration and approval procedures are identical. The scientific basis is still insufficient for substantial nano-specific regulatory adjustments. By the end of 2014, a new report will provide an update on the situation.
The measures devised for the handling of nanomaterials since 2008 are to be continually updated to reflect new insights. The measures include a set of criteria (precautionary matrix) permitting an assessment of health and environmental risks. At the same time, a draft paper on the disposal of industrial waste containing nanomaterials was developed and guidelines were written for the creation of safety data sheets to pass on information about nanomaterials in industry and trade.
Switzerland is not working in isolation; the development of test methods and a methodical basis is coordinated internationally. Under the aegis of the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a review is being conducted to determine whether test guidelines developed for chemicals are equally applicable to nanomaterials. And the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is developing nanotechnology terms which will form the basis for future Swiss provisions.
The National Research Programme NFP 64, "Opportunities and risks of nanomaterials", aims to answer questions regarding mechanisms of action and test strategies in collaboration with European research programmes and university projects in order to recognise dangerous nanomaterials quickly and reliably.
With the new internet platform www.infonano.ch, an interdepartmental project of several federal organs, the Federal Council heeds a consumer need.
This was also demonstrated by the study "Nanotechnologies from the consumers' point of view" which was conducted on behalf of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) over the past two years. The site aims to provide comprehensive and current information on opportunities, risks and dangers of nanomaterials' effects on health and the environment.