STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- Anti-aging creams, sunscreen lotions and other cosmetic products made with nanotechnology will have to be more rigorously tested for safety before being sold in Europe as of 2012, according to new rules passed Tuesday by the European Parliament.
EU governments have backed the legislation amid concerns that nanoparticles in cosmetics could be toxic.
Cosmetics makers say the tiny particles are meant to improve the effects of their products, from skin creams to lipsticks.
But little is known about the potential health and environmental effects of nanomaterials -- some thousands of times finer than a human hair, and small enough to penetrate cells in lungs, brains and other organs.
The EU assembly voted 633-29 Tuesday to pass the new rules, which update a six-year-old regulation. The new rules, which come into effect in 2012, also streamlines application procedures for testing and creates a single EU-wide register for all cosmetic products.
Pharmaceutical companies will have to adhere to precautionary "safety-first" testing before their products can be approved for sale in the 27-nation bloc, lawmakers said.
Currently, the EU requires some testing on all cosmetic products, including those without nanoparticles, but the new laws will require even more checks on nanotechnology products.
"Everyday cosmetic products containing nanomaterials ... will at last be subject to rules on authorization, safety testing and labeling," Green lawmaker Hiltrud Breyer said.
Ingredient labeling will also be mandatory, while the criteria for claiming a product offers certain benefits will be more strict.
The European Cosmetics Association, which represents companies like L'Oreal, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, said its members supported increased information to consumers.
Bertil Heerink, who heads the association said the new rules were "in line" with the industry's goals to provide "safe and innovative products, ensuring consumer confidence at the same time."
European consumers' group BEUC lamented that the new rules would apply only in three years' time, saying nanomaterials are already widely available on the European market, despite health concerns.
"This is just the beginning of the road: nanomaterials are not only found in cosmetic products but in food and medicines," BEUC head Monique Goyens said.
The group urged the EU to expand its safety research into nanotechnology.
About 5 percent of cosmetic products contained nanoparticles in 2006, according to the latest available EU estimates.