Nanotechnology and nan...
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Nanotechnology and nanomaterials

Nanotechnology has developed rapidly in recent years, and nanomaterials are now found in a wide range of con­sumer products and products intended for professional use. The number of new products on the market is ex­pected to rise, but knowledge of how humans and the environment are affected remains sparse.


This subject is therefore of great interest to many people. The Swedish Chemical Agency (KemI) has followed de­velopment in recent years and has produced several reports on behalf of the Swedish Government.

KemI takes part in ongoing work in the OECD (the Organ­isation for Economic Cooperation and Development) to bring about greater knowledge of the risks to health and the environment caused by nanomaterials. The question whether toxicity tests, used in the risk assessment of common chemicals, also give reliable risk assessments of nanomaterials. In addition, KemI takes part in work within the EU to ensure that nanomaterials are properly dealt with by current legislation.

What is a nanomaterial?

One nanometre is a millionth of a millimetre, or a billionth of a metre. Nanomaterials may be either entirely new chemical structures or already known chemi­cal structures at a smaller scale. As a result of their small size, nanomaterials may have entirely different properties and functions. Nanotechnology is concerned with forming and using these small structures.

The European Commission has developed a recommended definition of nanomaterial that will be introduced in all relevant EU legislation. The main features of the EU definition of nanomaterial is that the material should be between 1 and 100 nanometers in at least one dimension.

How are nanomaterials used?

Not all nanomaterials at nanoscale are new. Some have always existed around us. They exist in smoke from fires, salt crystals in the sea, vehicle exhausts and ceramic materials. Gold and silver at nanoscale have been used in coloured glass and ceramics ever since the 10th century. Carbon black has been used for a long time and is found in printing inks, rubber tyres and other black rubber parts.

Nowadays we can read in the press about the use of nanotechnology in most technical areas. These uses range from wafer-thin hand-held computers to revolutionary DNA research. There are nanomaterials in most electronic products today, as well as in surface treatment materials used on cars, frying pans and skiwear, but also in certain creams and make-up. Read more about cosmetics and hygiene products on the Medical Product Agency's website

Nanomaterials and REACH

Nanomaterials are covered by REACH just like all other substances. However, KemI is of the opinion that REACH needs to be adopted to ensure the safe handling of nanomaterials. In a draft proposal for a nanomaterials regulation, KemI has proposed a way forward towards a safe handling. This proposal could also be used to adapt REACH to nanomaterials. Swedish draft proposal

Four reports and memoranda on nanotechno-
logy and nanomaterials published by KemI since 2007

  • Report 6/07 Nanoteknik – stora risker med små partiklar? In this report, Nanotechnology - high risks with small particles? KemI notes that uses for nanotechnology are developing rapidly and that large gaps in knowledge call for caution. More research on the risks is needed, companies are responsible for ensuring that the environment and human health, and the legislation needs to be developed. The Swedish Chemicals Agency proposes that a Swedish strategy should be formulated and that test methods are developed. The report is also available in English: Report 3/08 Nanotechnology - high risks with small particles?
  • PM 1/09 Användningen av nanomaterial i Sverige 2008 – analys och prognos (Use of nanomaterials in Sweden in 2008 - analysis and prognosis). The Swedish Chemicals Agency surveyed nanomaterials in Sweden in 2008 and found titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, zinc oxide, metals, nanoclays, polymers, nitrides and carbon nanotubes in products on the Swedish market. 75 per cent of the nanomaterial in Swedish nanoproducts consisted of ceramic materials, 13 per cent was carbon-based, 7 per cent was metals and 5 per cent was polymers. English summary.
  • PM 2/09 Nanomaterial – aktiviteter för att identifiera och uppskatta risker. This memorandum, Nanomaterials – activities to identify and estimate risks, follows up the work in Report 6/07. New knowledge on what environmental and health risks exist with nanomaterials is presented. An account is also given of cooperation in progress, what tests have been conducted and what test methods have been used in different forms of cooperation in the Nordic Region, the EU and internationally. English summary.
  • Report 1/10 Säker användning av nanomaterial - Behov av reglering och andra åtgärder (Safe use of nanomaterials – Need for regulation and other measures), examines what protection is provided by existing legislation, and KemI proposes several measures, for instance that:
    - A notification requirement for products containing nanomaterials should be introduced in the EU.
    - The rules in the REACH and CLP Regulations should be revised and adapted so that they can be applied to nanomaterials.
    - An internationally agreed definition of nanomaterials and testing methods for nanomaterials should be devised. English summary.
Last review
2013-04-08
Created
2011-08-10

Nanotechnology and nanomaterials


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Nanotechnology has developed rapidly in recent years, and nanomaterials are now found in a wide range of con­sumer products and products intended for professional use. The number of new products on the market is ex­pected to rise, but knowledge of how humans and the environment are affected remains sparse.

From the glossary
  • Nano -

    A nanometre is a millionth millimetre or a billonth metre. The prefix is derived from the Greek νᾶνος, meaning "dwarf", and was officially confirmed as standard in 1960.