"Nanomaterials" are materials whose main constituents have a dimension of between 1 and 100 billionth of a metre, according to a recommendation adopted by the European Commission (EC). The announcement marks an important step towards greater protection for citizens, clearly defining which materials need special treatment in specific legislation.
European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "I am happy to say that the EU is the first to come forward with a cross-cutting designation of nanomaterials to be used for all regulatory purposes. Nanomaterials are already being used in hundreds of applications and consumer products ranging from toothpaste to batteries, paints and clothing. Developing these innovative substances is an important driver for European competitiveness, and they have significant potential for progress in areas like medicine, environmental protection and energy efficiency. The definition will be reviewed in 2014 in the light of technical and scientific progress.
The recommendation also delivers on a commitment made in 2009 to the European Parliament to issue a single definition that is broadly applicable to all EU legislation concerned by nanomaterials.
The definition adopted is based on an approach considering the size of the constituent particles of a material, rather than hazard or risk. The wording describes a nanomaterial as "a natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50% or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm."
The definition is based on scientific advice from the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). A draft version of the definition was subject to a public consultation.
Source: European Commission