Action plan for synthetic nanomaterials

The action plan, which expired at the end of 2019, indicated what work should be embarked on in Switzerland from 2008 to 2019 to ensure the safe handling of nanomaterials. The Federal Council took note of the final report on the Action plan on 2 September 2020.

Action plan for synthetic nanomaterials

The action plan recognised the growing importance of nanotechnology and nanomaterials in research, business and society. It created a framework enabling new opportunities to be explored and sustainable applications to be developed. In particular, it worked towards a situation where potential risks could already be investigated in the course of the innovation process to enable early measures to be taken to protect health and the environment.

The “Action plan for synthetic nanomaterials” was approved by the Federal Council in April 2008. One of the goals was to create the legal bases for the safe handling of nanomaterials. A discussion on the opportunities and risks posed by nanotechnology was to form an integral part of technological development. For this reason, information was shared and dialogue encouraged with the general public, politicians and businesses.

The action plan ran until the end of 2019. However, the structures established and the framework created will allow pending work with respect to harmonised regulation, scientific and technological exchange, and maintaining resources related to the enforcement duties of the federal offices involved, to be executed beyond the term of the Action plan. This way the safe handling of nanomaterials in Switzerland will be assured in the future as well.

Results

Between 2008 and 2019, work on implementing the action plan proceeded in many different areas:

Various guidance documents were published, such as the “Precautionary matrix for synthetic nanomaterials” and the “Guidelines for material safety data sheets”. They help to identify the possible risks posed by nanomaterials and communicate important safety information along the length of the production and delivery chain.

More Safe handling

Diverse nano-specific amendments were made to Swiss law. Among other things, Swiss law was amended in line with the rules governing nanomaterials in foods, cosmetics and medicinal products in the EU. Additional requirements for nanoscale chemicals were also added to the legislation on chemicals.

More Applicable law

Various events took place to foster dialogue with consumer and environmental organisations, businesses, academia and public authorities.

More Dialogue-based events

Basically the testing methods developed for chemicals can be applied. However, adaptations are needed for nanomaterials. New testing methods also have to be developed, especially methods for characterising nanomaterials. Switzerland is actively supporting the resulting work, with the federal bodies responsible participating in specific projects and the relevant OECD and EU working parties.

More Inspection, measurement and assessment methods

Further information

Safe handling

The federal government has generated a series of tools aimed at taking proactive and responsible steps for the safe handling of nanomaterials.

Current law

Various regulations contain nano-specific amendments. The currently most important Swiss regulations for nanomaterials are listed below.

Dialogue-based events

Dialogue is a key element in developing new technologies. Opportunities and risks have to be discussed and ways have to be found to safely and sensibly handle new technologies.

Inspection, measurement and assessment methods

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.

Last modification 07.09.2020

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