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Nanomaterials as priority substances under the Water Framework Directive

Catherine Ganzleben and Steffen Foss Hansen

elni Review 2012, Issue 2,  pp. 38-45. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2012.007

Nanomaterials are particles in the nano-scale that may be manufactured, occur naturally or be produced unintentionally through processes such as combustion. This article focuses on nanomaterials that are a designed product of a deliberate manufacturing process, commonly referred to as ‘engineered’ nanomaterials (ENM). The scale of application of nanomaterials is very broad with ENM used in a wide range of industrial sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, transport, energy, materials and information and communication technologies. Concentrations of substances manufactured by man in the environment have been found to increase in direct proportion to their use in society. Therefore, increasing environmental exposure to ENM in surface waters, air, groundwater and soils, as well as human exposure via the environment are expected. 
While Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) deals with the manufacturing and import of chemicals, the Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (hereafter WFD) aims to reduce and minimise the concentrations of dangerous chemicals in European waters. In a Communication published on 3 October 2012 entitled the ‘Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials’, the European Commission made a specific reference to the WFD, noting that “revisions of the selection process for priority substances under the water legislation [..] incorporating various nanomaterial aspects, are already being pursued.” In this article, the authors review the procedures for identifying priority substances under the WFD and consider whether they can capture nanomaterials. The authors also consider whether techniques are available to allow for monitoring nanomaterials in surface waters and review data from modelling exercises that estimate concentrations of nanomaterials in EU waters.

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