European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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2 December 2010

The ETUC contributes to the definition of the term ‘nanomaterials’

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has contributed to the consultation from the European Commission on a proposal for a definition of the term "nanomaterial" that the Commission intends to use as an overarching, broadly applicable reference term for any European Union communication or legislation addressing nanomaterials. That definition will therefore have to be adapted for each piece of legislation where it would be needed.

The ETUC considers that the definition should cover all nanomaterials and in particular those with a size smaller than 1 nanometer (nm) such as fullerenes. The criteria used for the definition should capture as much material as possible about which there is already concern, while avoiding materials that do not give rise to nano-scale-related concerns.

The ETUC has developed a flow diagram to distinguish a substance in the nano-form from the bulk form. The ETUC proposal helps also to decide in which respect a nanomaterial should be considered as a different substance in case of surface modifications.

Thus far, a single European legislative instrument has defined the term ‘nanomaterial’. This is the regulation on cosmetic products*, adopted in November 2009. But the ETUC believes this definition is unsatisfactory, for it relies upon a criterion of size, whereas it would have been preferable to define the state of a nanoparticle according to the point beyond which a substance undergoes modifications to its chemical and physical properties.

* "Nanomaterial" means an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm. See: Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products

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