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June 6, 2017

KAN Reviews Nanotechnology Standardization Documents from OSH Perspective

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

Germany’s Commission for Occupational Health and Safety (KAN) released in May 2017 a report entitled Standardization in nanotechnology — Status review and requirements analysis from the occupational safety and health perspective.  According to the report, which is in German but includes an English summary, the authors conducted a structured status review of the standardization situation in the field of nanotechnology.  Approximately 260 standardization documents related to nanotechnology were identified, including published standards, draft standards, technical specifications, and reports, as well as (proposed) work items.  The majority of the documents describe testing and measurement methods.  Others are concerned with terminology, material specifications, process descriptions, and guidance.  The evaluation of the findings focuses on a comparison with national and European rules and regulations and identifies loopholes.  The results are then used as the basis for recommendations to help occupational safety and health (OSH) experts exert a targeted influence on standardization in nanotechnology and prevent standards that conflict with established rules and regulations.  KAN’s recommendations include requesting that the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs/the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health urge the European Commission to:

  • Make clear the cross-references and differences between the European Union definition of nanomaterials and internationally harmonized definitions;
  • Address “advanced materials,” in addition to nanomaterials, in the subject matter dealt with in legislation and, while doing so, make reference to European/international harmonized OSH-relevant definitions in standards;
  • Promote the development of methods that cover the difficult measuring requirements in risk assessments of nanomaterials used in workplace practice;
  • Take into account the findings of safety research on nanomaterials that show that other innovative materials can also lead to similar hazards for workers;
  • Supplement the testing requirements for nanomaterials and other “advanced materials” with similar health hazards in the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation annexes and in guidelines;
  • Add these properties to the data required on the safety data sheet so that they are communicated to the supply chain; and
  • Introduce methods with which to group nanomaterials by their hazardous properties.