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Regulation of Nanomaterials under present and future Chemicals legislation Analysis and regulative options

Stefanie Merenyi, Martin Führ and Kathleen Ordnung

elni Review 2009, Issue 1,  pp. 31-38. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2009.005

Nanotechnology has already entered our everyday life. It finds application in a large number of industrial areas, for instance in the automobile industry, in energy and environmental technology, mechanical engineering, the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry, in medicine, cosmetics and the food industry. Nanoscale titanium dioxide in sunscreen products, for example, provides UV protection, car tyres contain – not only recently – nanoscale carbon black, and many scratchproof, antireflection, non-stick and de-misting surfaces are manufactured with the help of nanomaterials. What distinguishes nanomaterials from previously used substances and processes is, above all, their large and active surface in proportion to their volume. The small particle size can result in modified chemical properties and functionalities compared to conventional substance in a non-nanoscale form, which can range from varied melting and boiling points to greater hardness, magnetism and catalytic effects.
Nanotechnology is regarded as a key technology of the 21st century. Considerable economic expectations are attached to its further development. Due to its low consumption of resources and high energy efficiency, nanotechnology also offers potential ecological relief that should be exploited. At the same time, little is presently known about risks to human health and the environment associated with nanotechnology. The modified properties of nanoscale substances can lead to different risk assessment compared to conventional materials. Early knowledge in this respect has been available for some time. As far as titanium dioxide is concerned, the suspicion has been confirmed: This material, which has been manufactured and used as white pigment for many years, was regarded as unproblematic before its appearance in this small particle size, since tests carried out with non-nanoscale particles were negative. Results of tests on titanium dioxide in the nanoscale form showed, however, that these particles could have ecotoxic effects. In view of this conflict between expected benefits and potential risks, the question arises as to which legal requirements nanotechnology is subject to. In the spring of 2006 the Federal Environmental Agency commissioned a legal appraisal of the present framework of environmental legislation with regard to nanotechnologies and the drawing up of proposals for initial action should regulatory gaps be identified. The main focus of this analysis was chemicals law, and its findings are presented in this article.

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