The EU has issued a new working paper on types and uses of nanomaterials, including a discussion of safety aspects, and has simultaneously announced plans to improve the regulation of nanomaterials. In brief, the EU has concluded that nanomaterials must be regulated individually, in the way that other chemicals are regulated, and cannot be considered as a single class of chemicals.
Europe considers a material to be a nanomaterial when it contains 50% or more of particles with external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm to 100 nm (one nanometre is ten to the minus nine metres, formerly known as a millimicron). The total annual quantity of nanomaterials on the market at the global level is estimated at around 11 million tonnes, with a market value of roughly $26 billion. Carbon black and amorphous silica represent by far the largest volume of nanomaterials currently on the market. The group of materials currently attracting most attention are nano-titanium dioxide, nanozinc oxide, fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and nanosilver.
The regulatory review concludes that nanomaterials are similar to normal chemicals/substances in that some may be toxic and some may not. Possible risks are related to specific nanomaterials and specific uses. Therefore, nanomaterials require a risk assessment, which should be performed on a case-by-case basis, using pertinent information.
The pair of papers, including the now adopted regulatory review on nanomaterials, are available at http://ec.europa.eu/nanotechnology/policies_en.html
Canada has had a Proposed Regulatory Framework For Nanomaterials Under The Canadian Environmental Protection Act since 2007 but the proposal has not yet been converted to an actual regulatory framework. The Proposed Regulatory Framework can be found at http://www.ec.gc.ca/subsnouvelles-newsubs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FD117B60-1