Nanomaterials are chemical substances or materials that are manufactured and used at a very small scale (down to 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair). Nanomaterials are developed to exhibit novel characteristics (such as increased strength, chemical reactivity or conductivity) compared to the same material without nanoscale features.
Hundreds of products containing nanomaterials are already in use. Examples are batteries, coatings, anti-bacterial clothing etc. Analysts expect markets to grow considerably in the near future. Nano innovation will be seen in many sectors including public health, employment and occupational safety and health, information society, industry, innovation, environment, energy, transport, security and space.
Nanomaterials have the potential to improve the quality of life and to contribute to industrial competitiveness in Europe. However, the new materials may also pose risks to the environment and raise health and safety concerns. These risks, and to what extent they can be tackled by the existing risk assessment measures in the EU, have been the subject of several opinions of the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). The overall conclusion so far is that, even though nanomaterials are not per se dangerous, there still is scientific uncertainty about the safety of nanomaterials in many aspects and therefore the safety assessment of the substances must be done on a case-by-case basis.
Information on how EU regulation in general applies to nanomaterials can be found in the Commission Communication on the Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials and in the Commission Staff Working Document.
For a harmonized and efficient application of regulatory provisions specific to nanomaterials, the Commission adopted the Recommendation on the definition of a nanomaterial. The definition is currently under review.
In REACH, nanomaterials are treated as any other chemicals. More details on the actual implementation under REACH and CLP as well as the recent revision of REACH technical Annexes I, III, VI-XII as well as the preparation of modification of Annex II can be found here.
Selected Commission studies related to the nanomaterial aspects in the environmental legislation, finalized and in progress, can be found here.
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