The effects of nanomaterials depend on their size, shape and composition. Reliable methods are needed to determine the effects and behaviour of nanomaterials in the human body and in the environment.
Various international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are developing standardised inspection, measurement and assessment methods in order to evaluate the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials.
OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN)
The aim of the WPMN, which was established in 2006, is to develop methods and strategies that contribute towards the safety of nanomaterials for people and the environment. This involves, among other things:
- Reviewing existing OECD test guidelines to assess their suitability for nanomaterials. If necessary, amending existing test guidelines or developing new ones.
- Providing freely available documents that present the research activities and strategies of OECD member countries on the safe use of nanomaterials, so called "Tour de Table" documents.
- Supporting international partnerships that are investigating risk assessment strategies.
- Developing guidelines on measuring and minimising exposure for employees, consumers and the environment.
- Promoting the sustainable use of nanotechnology by enhancing and expanding inventory data and lifecycle assessment (LCA) methods.
The methods used to test conventional chemicals can generally also be used for nanomaterials. Modification is necessary in some cases, for example to enable correct sample preparation or determine the correct dose of nanomaterials. Furthermore, new methods will have to be developed, in particular to characterise nanomaterials.
In 2007, a test programme was started to test in vivo & in vitro the potential risk that eleven different nanomaterials (fullerenes, S-MWNT, silver, iron, titanium dioxide, cerium oxide, zinc oxide, silicon dioxide, dendrimers, clay and gold) posed to people and the environment. Thanks to assistance from public authorities, industry and research bodies in equal measure, the results have been available since June 2015.
International standardisation organisations
The technical committees ISO TC 229 Nanotechnologies and CEN TC 352 are developing standards for nanotechnology terminology and naming conventions. These expert groups are also drawing up methods for measuring, characterising and testing the toxic properties of nanomaterials, and are preparing guidelines on handling nanomaterials safely. Measuring exposure to nanoparticles and assessing toxicity throughout their lifecycle is playing an increasingly important role. The NK 0201 standards committee of the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) is enabling its members to work directly with ISO TC 229 and CEN 352.
Chemicals: Guidance on information requirements and chemical safety assessment for nanomaterials under REACH
The European chemicals agency ECHA has published several nano-specific appendices to its guidelines on information requirements and chemical safety assessment under REACH.
Nano-specific appendices (available in English only):
Foods: Guidelines for assessing the possible risks of nanotechnology
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published guidelines for assessing the possible risks of nanotechnology in food and feed in 2011.
Cosmetic products: Guidance on assessing the risks of nanomaterials
The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) published guidance on assessing the risks of nanomaterials in cosmetics in 2012. This guidance forms the methodological basis for the safety report that has to be submitted as part of the registration process in accordance with the European Regulation on Cosmetic Products. The document can be found on this page under ‘Documents’.
Medical devices: Guidance on assessing the risks of nanomaterials
In 2015, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) published guidance on assessing the risks of nanomaterials in medical devices. This highlights what needs to be specifically taken into account for nanomaterials. This guidance can also be used for particles larger than 100 nm.
Last modification 15.01.2019