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How to identify nanomaterials


The JRC releases today a report on how to decide through measurements whether a material is a nanomaterial or not. This will foster the correct implementation of the European Commission's nanomaterial definition.

It is the world of the infinitely small. A world invisible to the human eye. In fact, one nanometre fits a billion times in a metre. Nanomaterials are booming. They stand at the heart of a technological revolution. They have plenty of benefits, including in healthcare. We also find them in many everyday products, like computers, phones, sun creams or textiles.

But, as with all innovation, there are still many questions to be answered regarding their safety. How safe are nanomaterials for human health and the environment.

Towards understanding whether a material is a nanomaterial

The European Commission started to tackle the issue of nanomaterials by explicitly addressing nanomaterials in regulations and by adopting a definition of nanomaterials in 2011. That definition provides a general basis for regulatory instruments across many areas.

However, many actors found it difficult to implement, because some key concepts and terms could be interpreted in different ways. The JRC released therefore a first report in February 2019 to clarify the key concepts and terms used in this definition.

Stakeholders now need a common approach on how to decide through measurements whether a material is a nanomaterial or not, in order to implement harmoniously this definition. Therefore, the JRC publishes today a new report on how to identify nanomaterials according to the European Commission's definition through measurements.

The report provides recommendations on how to select the appropriate measuring technique for each material depending on its physico-chemical properties. It also suggests the steps necessary to classify a material as nanomaterial or not a nanomaterial. This classification has to be based on robust data and their scientifically sound analysis.

Legal consequences

The decision on whether a material is a nanomaterial or not may have legal consequences. In fact, nanomaterials may be subject to closer analysis of possible risks than other materials. Certain products (cosmetics, biocides etc.) containing nanomaterials also have to be labelled accordingly. A clear classification of nanomaterials allows harmonised application of the relevant legal provisions in all regulatory fields and hence contributes to clearer and better regulation.

This is where our new JRC report can help.

» New report: Identification of nanomaterials through measurements

» First report in Febuary 2019

Source: European Commission, Joint Research Centre