June 30, 2022

European Commission Clarifies Definition of Nanomaterials

The European Commission has revised its definition of nanomaterials via an official recommendation published on June 10 (PDF). The new definition of “nanomaterial” states that only solid particles should be considered and includes an added condition that particles larger than 100 micrometers (µm) “need not be counted.” The commission’s revised definition also clarifies that single molecules are not nanomaterials.

A news article published by the Directorate-General for Environment, the department in the European Commission responsible for the European Union’s policy on the environment, explains that the new recommendation “supports a coherent EU regulatory framework for nanomaterials, helping to align legislation across all sectors,” and is intended to be used in legislation, policies, and research programs initiated by the EU and its member states. The new definition replaces an earlier definition for nanomaterials that was first adopted in 2011. According to the commission, the revised definition “will not significantly affect the scope of identified nanomaterials.”

Because certain properties of nanomaterials may increase their toxicity or necessitate different procedures for their safe use, the commission explains that several EU laws have provisions for data collection, risk assessment, and product labeling that are triggered “based on the applied definition of nanomaterial.” Other definitions of nanomaterials exist in EU legislation of certain sectors, such as the food and cosmetics sector. With the publication of its new recommendation, the commission states that it “will now strive to use the revised definition to align legislation across all sectors.”

The European Commission’s website offers more specific information on its revised nanomaterials definition and how the recommendation will be implemented.

For additional information about nanomaterials, as well as to learn about U.S.-based efforts to understand their associated occupational health effects, visit NIOSH’s nanotechnology webpage.