As of this month, cosmetic products notified as containing nano ingredients will be listed on the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website.

Cosmetic and personal care products that contain nano-sized ingredients must be notified to the regulator. Until now, however, these notifications were not made public, unless requested under the Official Information Act.

A list of the first notifications is now available here.

People wanting to know which products contain nanomaterials should not, however, rely on the EPA listing as a comprehensive guide. The products listed are likely to be a tiny fraction of cosmetics available on New Zealand shelves that contain nanomaterials because:

  • There is little or poor enforcement of the requirement to notify. A product that the Sustainability Council identified two years ago as likely requiring notification has still not been notified, although it is still on shelves and we understand that the importer had indicated to the EPA it would do so almost a year ago.
  • The most widely used nanoscale ingredients – nanoscale titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (commonly used in sunscreens) – do not have to be notified.
  • The definition of nanomaterial is narrow, and means that a number of products containing particles with nanoscale properties are not covered by the rule.

Publicising the list of cosmetic products containing nano ingredients is a welcome step towards transparency and follows the regulator’s ruling earlier in the year that these must be labelled for as of 2015.

The stark question remaining is why we can have a notification requirement – ostensibly there to allow the EPA to track nanocosmetic ingredients and New Zealanders to make meaningful product choices – and yet no meaningful EPA or Ministry of Health monitoring and enforcement?