EU Science Hub

JRC contributes to major OECD breakthrough on nanomaterials safety knowledge

Jun 23 2015

The JRC has played a central role in the OECD testing programme of representative manufactured nanomaterials. The programme was led by the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) and had the objective to ensure that the approaches for assessment of hazard, exposure and risk for manufactured nanomaterials “are of a high quality, science-based and internationally harmonised."

Recently the OECD has announced the release of the raw, experimental data and other information generated within its testing programme for nanomaterials, covering 11 manufactured nanomaterials tested for about 59 endpoints across over 110 different test methods.The information published by OECD is a major breakthrough on nanomaterials safety knowledge, and thus supports innovation and technological development.

The volume of new information released by the OECD - in form of dossiers using the IUCLID format - is "unprecedented" in quantity, and, especially, in relevance as in the dossiers each tested nanomaterial is identical throughout the testing (same lot and batch). The released information contributes to a dramatic shift "in the world’s understanding of the properties and applications of nanomaterials". Indeed the assessment of this information will enable a better understanding of the intrinsic properties of nanomaterials and has already led to the conclusion by the OECD Council that “the approaches for the testing and assessment of traditional chemicals are in general appropriate for assessing the safety of nanomaterials, but may have to be adapted to the specificities of nanomaterials”.

The JRC co-chaired the steering group co-ordinating the OECD WPMN testing programme, actively contributed to the testing of some materials (e.g. silicon dioxide), coordinated the assessment of the applicability of OECD test guidelines to nanomaterials, the development of guidance for testing the nanomaterials in the programme and setting priorities and formulating work plans for upgrading existing or developing new OECD Test Guidelines. Moreover, the JRC established the JRC Nanomaterials Repository that hosts eight of the representative manufactured nanomaterials tested in the OECD programme (marked with an asterisk in the list below).

The nanomaterials for which a dossier was developed in the WPMN testing programme are given below; most of the dossiers present information on several forms of the nanomaterial:

  • fullerenes;
  • single-walled carbon nanotubes;
  • multi-walled carbon nanotubes*;
  • silver*;
  • gold*;
  • dendrimers;
  • silicon dioxide*;
  • nanoclays*;
  • titanium dioxide*;
  • cerium dioxide*;
  • zinc oxide*.

In light of these studies, the OECD will now focus on how the Test Guidelines can be adapted, as necessary, to make sure that the intrinsic properties of nanomaterials can be adequately captured by the test guidelines used for regulatory testing. This revision activity, with JRC as co-leader, was initiated in 2009 on the basis of the available information at that time. The JRC will continue playing a central role contributing both to the coordination with the Test Guidelines Programme and to the active development or upgrading of OECD Test Guidelines and complementary guidance to ensure their applicability to nanomaterials.

The OECD/JRC work on nanomaterials is important for the full attainment of the high potential benefits of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies which is often hampered by uncertainty due to, for example, the limited amount of reliable knowledge on properties of nanomaterials and their uses. This fuels citizens' and regulators' concerns over the safe use of nanomaterials at work, in consumer products and after their disposal and possible adverse impacts on human health and the environment.