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Safety Aspects

The risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials has become the focus of increasing attention. To date the widely accepted view is that there are many unanswered questions, although a high number reports have been published discussing the potential environmental and health risks associated with the manufacture, use, distribution and disposal of nanomaterials. The European Commission aims at reinforcing nanotechnology and, at the same time, boosting support for collaborative R&D; into the potential impact of nanotechnology on human health and the environment via toxicological and ecotoxicological studies.

Commission regulatory activities : The Commission is performing a regulatory inventory, covering EU regulatory frameworks that are applicable to nanomaterials (chemicals, worker protection, environmental legislation, product specific legislation etc.). The purpose of this inventory is to examine and, where appropriate, propose adaptations of EU regulations in relevant sectors. Preliminary findings indicate that the regulatory frameworks in principle give a good coverage based on the fact that different aspects of production and products are at the same time subject to various Community provisions. However, many of the knowledge gaps (toxicity thresholds, test schemes etc) will need to be addressed to ensure implementation.

Safety of Nanomaterials in Cosmetic Products: The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products ( SCCP ) of European Commission's DG Health and Consumer Protection currently develops a Scientific opinion on the Safety of Nanomaterials in Cosmetic Products .

Reports and other publications

EU funded projects


Nanoparticles health & environmental impact projects

  • ENNSATOX : Engineered Nanoparticle Impact on Aquatic Environments: Structure, Activity and Toxicology
  • ENPRA : Risk Assessment of Engineered Nanoparticles
  • HINAMOX : Health Impact of Engineered Metal and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles: Response, Bioimaging and Distribution at Cellular and Body Level
  • InLiveTox : "Intestinal, Liver and Endothelial Nanoparticle Toxicity. Development and evaluation of a novel tool for high-throughput data generation."
  • NEPHH : Nanomaterials-related environmental pollution and health hazards throughout their life-cycle
  • NANOMMUNE : Comprehensive assessment of hazardous effects of engineered nanomaterials on the immune system
  • NanoReTox : The reactivity and toxicity of engineered nanoparticles:  risks to the environment and human health
  • NeuroNano : Do nanoparticles induce neurodegenerative diseases? Understanding the origin of reactive oxidative species and protein aggregation and mis-folding phenomena in the presence of nanoparticles
  • Nanotest : Development of methodology for alternative testing strategies for the assessment of the toxicological profile of nanoparticles used in medical diagnostics. To study specific and nonspecific interactions of NP with molecules, cells and organs and to develop in vitro methods which can identify the toxicological potential of NP.

Nanoparticles - state of the art review

  • ENRHES : Engineered Nanoparticles: Review of Health and Environmental Safety

Nanoparticle exposure

  • NANEX : Development of Exposure Scenarios for Manufactured Nanomaterials

Portable devices

  • NANODEVICE : Novel Concepts, Methods, and Technologies for the Production of Portable, Easy-to-Use Devices for the Measurement and Analysis of Airborne Engineered Nanoparticles in Workplace Air

Nanomaterials life-cycle

  • NanoFATE : Nanoparticle Fate Assessment and Toxicity in the Environment (to be announced)
  • NANOHOUSE : Life Cycle of Nanoparticle-based Products used in House Coating
  • NANOPOLYTOX : Toxicological impact of nanomaterials derived from processing, weathering and recycling of polymer nanocomposites used in various industrial applications (to be announced)
  • NanoSustain : "Development of sustainable solutions for nanotechnology-based products based on hazard characterization and LCA

Nanomaterials impact - coordination  action

  • NanoImpactNet : European Network on the Health and Environmental Impact of Nanomaterials

Nanoparticles in food

  • Nanolyse : Nanoparticles in Food: Analytical methods for detection and characterisation


  • Cellnanotox: Cellular Interaction and Toxicology with Engineered Nanoparticles. The objective is unraveling the correlation between the physicochemical characteristics of NPs and their toxic potential on various organs of the human body.
  • Dipna: Development of an Integrated Platform for Nanoparticle Analysis to verify their possible toxicity and the eco-toxicity. Basic knowledge on the interaction between nanoparticles and cells. Identification of the modes of NP-cell interaction.
  • Nanointeract: Development of a platform and toolkit for understanding interactions between nanoparticles and the living world. Fundamental view of how engineered nanoparticles interact with living cells. Knowledge-based and rational approach that underpins the development of nanotoxicology.
  • Nanosh: Inflammatory and genotoxic effects of engineered nanomaterials. Better understanding of the characteristics, behaviour, and toxicity of nanoparticles. Useful methods to assess exposure to and health effects of nanoparticles.
  • Saphir: Safe, integrated & controlled production of high-tech multifunctional materials and their recycling. The general objective of the project is the safe, integrated and controlled production of high-tech multifunctional nanostructured products including their recycling, ensuring competitiveness.
  • Nanocap: Nanotechnology capacity building NGOs. To develop recommendations to enable public authorities to address the health, safety and environmental risk issues related to the rapid introduction of nanotechnology into society. To give industry the tools to introduce a "responsible nanotechnology".
  • Nanotest: Development of methodology for alternative testing strategies for the assessment of the toxicological profile of nanoparticles used in medical diagnostics. To study specific and nonspecific interactions of NP with molecules, cells and organs and to develop in vitro methods which can identify the toxicological potential of NP.
  • Impart : Improving the understanding of the impact of nanoparticles on human health and the environment. This NMP coordination action will foster communication links between numbers of regional, national and international initiatives in order to reduce duplication of effort, pool expertise and facilitate co-operation between networks.
  • NanoDerm : Quality of Skin as a barrier to ultra-fine particles. This FP5 research project aims at applying and developing different methods for analysing the quality of skin as a barrier against nanoparticles and to investigate the nanoparticles activity and the skin response.
  • NanoPathology : The role of micro and nanoparticles in biomaterial-inducing pathologies. This FP5 research project aims at developing an innovative methods of diagnosis micro- and nano- particles, investigating patho-mechanisms of possible particle-included disease and to determine the pathological significance of the nanoparticles.
  • Nanosafe : Risk assessment in production and use of nanoparticles with development of preventive measures and practice codes. This FP5 research project assesses risks involved in production, handling and use of nanoparticles in industrial processes and products, as well as in consumer products.
  • Nanosafe2 : Safe production and use of nanoparticles. This NMP integrated project will establish processes to detect, track and characterise nanoparticles.
  • Nanotransport : The behaviour of Aerosols Released to Ambient Air from Nanoparticle Manufacturing - A Pre-Normative Study. This NMP Specific Support Action aims at the definition of realistic test conditions in terms of aerosols characteristics for use within toxicology investigations of nanoparticles.
    Visit the project's website here .
  • Particle risk : Risk Assessment for Particle Exposure. This NEST research project is developing methods to assess the dangers posed by new kinds of particulate matter being developed by modern science and technology.
  • Nano-strand : Standardization related to Research and Development for Nanotechnologies

Other national and international activities

  • European Commission Scientific Committees' activities : These Scientific Committees provide the Commission with the sound scientific advice it needs when preparing policy and proposals relating to consumer safety, public health and the environment. The Commission provides summaries of the most relevant scientific opinions in a format and language which can be easily understood by non-specialists. A summary of the scientific opinion on the safety of nanotechnology is publicly available.
  • European Union: EU regulatory framework for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). See REACH homepage of the European Commission for related information such as an overview, background documents and announcements.
  • United Kingdom: Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties Two-year review of progress on Government actions: Joint academies’ response to the Council for Science and Technology’s call for evidence
    Policy document of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, October 2006
  • Germany: Health and Environmental Risks of Nanoparticles
    BAuA report on the German research strategy related to risks of nanoparticles, based on an expert consultation, October 2006
  • United Kingdom: The UK government has launched a Voluntary Reporting Scheme on engineered nanoscale materials in order to gather information related to health and environmental safety of nanosized chemicals.
  • ISO and CEN: The International and the European Standardisation bodies have established working groups on nanotechnology. These working groups cover also the nomenclature and metrology of nanotechnology and hence the definition aspects, taking also into account labelling issues.
  • OECD: The OECD has established a Working Party on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials under the Chemicals Committee
  • European Technology Platform for Industrial Safety: The ETPIS aims at the improvement of industrial safety by co-ordinated efforts in research, improved risk control, risk assessment and control methodologies. With this agenda, it is highly relevant for occupational health and safety in nanotechnology.

Public health, safety, environmental and consumer protection are an important element of the European Strategy and the Action Plan on nanotechnology of the European Commission.


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