Improve regulation of Nanomaterials

Nano structuresClick to enlarge
Nano structures are more than 1000 times smaller than the diameter of an human hair
Source: eugenesergeev / Fotolia.com

Until now, with few exceptions, there are no specific provisions for nanomaterials within the substance legislations. As a result, specific environmental risks cannot be described and assessed adequately. Therefore, the main aim of this paper is to outline the necessary further development of chemi¬cals regulations for nanomaterials with regard to the environment from UBA´s perspective.

The UBA recommends to adapt the chemical safety regulations and associated risk assessment instruments to the specifities of nanomaterials. Environmental risks can thus be assessed more safely.

Maria Krautzberger, president of the UBA: „Nanomaterials have specific properties. To date, with few exceptions, there are no adaptations of substance legislations to nanomaterials. However, we need these in order to depict and assess the potential environmental risks. This is the only way to take adequate measures to minimise risks.“ In addition, tools for such an assessment needs to be developed and adapted. Nanomaterials need to be defined consistently in the various regulations to avoid legal uncertainty and contradictions.

In the view of UBA, there is a need for adaptation within the existing regulation for chemicals (REACH), the regulations on biocidal products and plant protection products as well as of the directives on human and veterinary medicinal product. Although these regulations cover nanomaterials in principal, they are not adequately adjusted to substances in the range of 1-100 nm.

Maria Krautzberger: „The European Commission should now expedite the adaptation of REACH and the implementation of a harmonised definition in the various regulations in a constructive manner.“

UBA additionally calls for a register of products containing nanomaterials at the European level, in particular as long as the regulations for chemicals safety are not sufficiently adapted.

Nano does not necessarily mean hazard or risk. However, nanomaterials have specific properties which distinguish them from other chemicals. The environmental behaviour and impact of nanomaterials are influenced not only by their chemical composition but also by their properties like size, shape and surface characteristics.

The most important fields of application for nanomaterials include electrical engineering, energy technology, chemistry and materials development. By using nanomaterials, improved efficiencies and new functionalities can be achieved. Due to the dynamic development of nanomaterials and their applications the amounts produced are increasing. This can also result in increased burdens for humans and the environment when nanomaterials are released.  

UBA is involved in the discussion on the adaptation of regulation and risk assessment of nanomaterials in various national and international working groups and research projects.  Together with other higher federal authorities (Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Federal Institute for Material Research and Testing (BAM), National Metrology Institute of Germany (PtB)) UBA has developed a research strategy  for human health and environmental risks of nanomaterials and updates it periodically.