At a meeting of the European Commission this week commissioners confirmed that the EU plans to deal with nanoscale materials primarily through its REACH chemical regulation rather than develop entirely new legislation specific to nanomaterials. Commissioners noted that creating something new was simply not feasible at this time.
The Commission will, however, work with ECHA and other regulatory bodies to develop additional guidance documents to assist stakeholders in adequately characterizing and evaluating any specific risks posed by nanoscale materials. While most nanomaterials are nano-sized versions of existing chemicals, the small size often results in differences in key physical-chemical, fate and transport, and potentially toxicity properties. The goal is to find a balance between the need for additional information for the risk assessment and creating a massive new regulatory burden for companies, many of whom may be small or medium sized entities.
At this point there is quite a bit of uncertainty for industry, which must deal with a regulatory system that isn't yet predictable or consistent. Even the definition of what the regulatory bodies believe constitutes a nanomaterial is not clear. Still, industry is generally in agreement that nanomaterials should be dealt with through REACH rather than have to deal with entirely new legislation.