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July 15, 2010

EC Opens Public Consultation on Scientific Basis for a Definition of Nanomaterial

Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 12, 2010, the European Commission (EC) opened a public consultation on the pre-consultation opinion of the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) entitled “Scientific Basis for the Definition of the Term ‘Nanomaterial.’” The EC states that its services need a working definition for the term “nanomaterial” to ensure the consistency of forthcoming regulatory developments, to guide the effective implementation of existing regulations, and to contribute to international work and dialogue on nanotechnology definitions. In its opinion, SCENIHR notes that the commonly used definition of the nanoscale is having a size between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers (nm). SCENIHR states, however, that there is no scientific evidence in favor of a single upper limit, and that there is no scientific evidence to qualify the appropriateness of the 100 nm value. According to SCENIHR, there is a need for a more elaborate description to identify unequivocally a nanomaterial or a product containing a nanomaterial for various European Union (EU) regulatory bodies. In its opinion, SCENIHR provides advice on the essential scientific elements of a working definition for the term “nanomaterial” for regulatory purposes, and discusses existing definitions formulated by various bodies. SCENIHR proposes to define an enforceable definition of “nanomaterial” for regulatory use by setting an upper limit for nanomaterial size, and adding to the proposed limit additional guidance (requirements) specific for the intended regulation. SCENIHR states:

Crucial in the guidance that needs to be provided is the extended description of the nanoscale. Merely defining single upper and lower cut-off limits is not sufficient in view of the size distributions occurring in manufactured nanomaterials. Although many nanomaterials are produced for specific properties at the nanoscale, at the moment it is not possible to identify a specific size or a specific generic property that is suddenly introduced or changed with size. Alternatively, a tiered approach may be required depending on the amount of information known for any specifically engineered nanomaterial and its proposed use.

Comments are due September 15, 2010.