Getting specific about nanomaterials
The JRC just released a report clarifying the key concepts and terms used in the European Commission's nanomaterial definition. This will support stakeholders for the correct implementation of legislation making reference to the definition. Nanotechnology may well be one of the most fast-moving sectors of the last few years.
The number of products produced by nanotechnology or containing nanomaterials entering the market is increasing. As the technology develops, nanomaterials are delivering benefits to many sectors, including: healthcare (in targeted drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and diagnostics), electronics, cosmetics, textiles, information technology and environmental protection.
As the name suggests, nanomaterials are very small - so small that they are invisible to the human eye. In fact, nanomaterials contain particles smaller than 100 nanometres. Nanomaterials have unique physical and chemical characteristics. They can be used in consumer products to improve the products' properties - for instance, to make something more resistant against breaking, stains or humidity.
Nanomaterials have undoubtedly enabled progress in many areas, but as with all innovation, we must ensure that the impact on human health and the environment are properly considered. The European Commission's Recommendation on the definition of nanomaterials (2011/696/EU) provides a general basis for regulatory instruments in many areas. This definition has been used in the EU regulations on biocidal products and medical devices, and the REACH regulation. It is also used in various national legislative texts.
However, in the context of a JRC survey, many respondents expressed difficulties with the implementation of the EC definition, in particular due to the fact that some of the key concepts and terms could be interpreted in different ways. Therefore, the JRC just published the report "An overview of concepts and terms used in the European Commission's definition of nanomaterial" which aims to provide a clarification of the key concepts and terms of the nanomaterial definition and discusses them in a regulatory context.
This will facilitate a common understanding and fosters a harmonised and coherent implementation of the nanomaterial definition in different regulatory context at EU and national level.