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ISSUE 61 page 7

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Health & Safety
EU ‘No change on nanos’ not good enough say unions

NANO-MATERIALS ARE NO LONGER NEW. Substances like carbon-black are already used in printing inks and toners, nanosilvers in socks and refrigerators, while carbon nano-tubes lend their strength to bicycle frames and tennis racquets. The microscopically-altered substances were the subject of a public consultation by the European Commission over two and a half years ago. Now, as they publish their ‘Second Regulatory Review’ there seems to still be a lack of both scientific research and safety guidelines. In the absence of these the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) believes that the precautionary principle of ‘no data, no market’ must be adhered to rather than the ‘no data no harm’ approach that the Commission is currently adopting. The only substantive change that the EU is contemplating is an amendment to the wording of the annexes and guidance for companies in the REACH regulations which cover chemicals in general. The ETUC and campaigning organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the European Consumers’ Asssociation BEUC responded by  calling this proposal ‘manifestly insufficient to overcome the current lack of information on nanomaterials’. In a ‘Stakeholders’ Response’ they point out that many problems with nano-materials are drawn attention to by the Commission’s working paper, such as a possible increase in toxicity of a substance when its size and shape are changed e.g. carbon-black has been proved to be toxic to human lymphocytes at much lower doses in its nano form. Yet this is contradicted by the conclusions of the review that ‘nanomaterials are similar to normal chemicals/substances’. The review admits that existing databases on nanos are not reliable, it is not even certain that the substances monitored actually contain them, all voluntary reporting schemes having failed in the face of the industry’s lack of transparency. However the proposed solution of a web platform is derided by the ETUC and others as ‘trying to maintain the status quo’ rather than upholding ‘right to know about what chemicals they are exposed to and how’.
The ETUC  questions the Commission’s figure of 300-400,000 jobs related to nanotechnology but insists on a comprehensive strategy for workers’ protection, together with adequate training, as essential to realise its benefits. A recent survey found that 54% of Europeans had no idea what nanos were. It says that more serious modifications of REACH are needed including a definition of nano-materials, alteration of tonnage thresholds that can exclude them from the law, and the implementation of phase-in rules for them.

New commissioner’s ‘shock tactics’ proposal for cigarette packs
NEW EU HEALTH COMMISSIONER TONIO BORG has wasted no time in reviving the proposed tobacco directive following the resignation of his predecessor. Approved by the European Parliament in mid-November, he announced the adoption of a revised law just before Christmas. Commissioner Borg said that the present 11-year old directive must be revised to catch up with new marketing strategies and scientific research. Smoking among women is increasing in Europe, partly due to colours, shapes and pack design aimed at girls. The research shows that two-thirds of smokers start before they are 18 and that the incidence of lung cancer, 80% caused by tobacco, in women will soon overtake the male rate.
The proposal would require 75% of the pack front and back to consist of ‘pictorial health warnings’. Ingredients such as chocolate and vanilla with a ‘strong characteristic’ flavour would be banned and a tracking and tracing system to crack down on cross-border and illegal sales would be introduced. 700,000 EU citizens are still killed every year by tobacco products while €25 billion are spent on  treating smoking-related illnesses. The proposals now have to be passed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament and may be implemented in three to four years time.


Unions: new rules will only make pilot fatigue worse

A NEW REPORT COMMISSIONED BY pilots’ union the European Cockpit Association shows that fatigue is a big problem in the airline industry. Between 43% and 54% of pilots surveyed in the UK, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have fallen asleep in the cockpit while a third of British respondents reported having woken up to find their co-pilot also snatching forty winks. Four out of five pilots in Germany admit to having made a mistake due to tiredness. However the report found that only 20% to 30% of those surveyed had actually told management when they felt unfit for duty. These results are published when recommendations on flight time limitations from the aviation safety body EASA, which have gone to the European Commission for approval, have attracted criticism for being too lax. Unions fear that pilots will be required to work longer hours and that this will ‘adversely affect flight and passenger safety’. A strike is planned for late January and a petition is circulating among passengers that has already attracted over 85,000 signatures.

 Please find the petition on the web at:

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