"Nanomaterials" are materials whose main constituents have a dimension of between 1 and 100 billionth of a metre, according to a recommendation adopted by the European Commission today.
The announcement marks an important step towards greater protection for citizens, clearly defining which materials need special treatment in specific legislation.
Nanomaterials are already being used in hundreds of applications and consumer products ranging from toothpaste to batteries, paints and clothing. Developing these innovative substances is an important driver for European competitiveness, and they have significant potential for progress in areas like medicine, environmental protection and energy efficiency. But as uncertainties remain about the risks they pose, a clear definition is needed to ensure that the appropriate chemical safety rules apply. The definition will help all stakeholders including industry associations, as it brings coherence to the variety of definitions that are currently in use in different sectors. The definition will be reviewed in 2014 in the light of technical and scientific progress.