The European Commission recognizes a need to engage the public on the use of nanomaterials, considering two alternatives: to set up an observatory for nanomaterials or use a nanomaterial registry, as several EU nations have already done, or are considering. The observatory would collect available information on nanomaterials in one place and present it in an easily understandable way to the public, consumers, workers and public authorities via the internet. The European Commission has decided to set up the observatory for nanomaterials, to be hosted by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
In the debate about the use of nanotechnology in everyday life and whether to proceed with a registry or observatory, Otto Linher, the Deputy Head of Directorate General Enterprise's chemicals unit at the European Commission weighed in:
"Due to the widespread use of nanomaterials, setting up a registry of all products containing nanomaterials would be extremely burdensome and expensive […] while there are indeed issues, for example with fine dusts in working environments, there are few, if any, indications that there are issues with the [use of nanomaterials in the] vast majority of everyday life products […]".
ECHA is currently setting up the observatory, expected to launch in the summer of 2017, that will include background information on nanomaterials, how they are used, potential safety issues, as well as links to current research projects. It is important to note that several member states such as France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden still maintain national registries for nanomaterials that require companies to report on production and uses.