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Nanomaterials are chemical substances or specific forms of chemical substances with small size features (e.g., small particle size) due to which they often have specific properties

Nanomaterials have been used for a long time, but the number of nanomaterials and the number of their applications has increased strongly over the last few decades. Nanomaterials are now used in consumer products, e.g., as UV-filters in sun creams or as anti-odorant in textiles.

Many medical and technical applications also exist, such as nanocarriers in tumour therapies, as anode-material in lithium-ion batteries which can drive electrical cars, or incorporated in solar panels to improve their performance. New applications for nanomaterials continue to be developed and have the potential to create major technological breakthroughs, and therefore nanomaterials have been identified as a key enabling technology. 

At the same time, nanomaterials may also pose risks to human health and the environment, and therefore their production and use are regulated. A specific definition of ‘nanomaterials’ for use in the regulatory and policy context was proposed in the 2011 Commission Recommendation, and has in the meantime been incorporated in several pieces of EU legislation, including in REACH.

Indeed, in 2018, Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/1881 was adopted and modified Annexes I, III and VI-XII, introducing nano-specific legal requirements. The Recommendation was updated in 2022, mainly to allow easier and more efficient implementation.

In 2017, the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) was launched. It aims at giving objective and reliable information on markets and safety aspects of nanomaterials in the EU market. It collects, analyses and reviews available information from a wide range of sources, and completes this information by external studies to fill specific data gaps (e.g., via new market studies and surveys) on nanomaterials on the market.  The Observatory for Nanomaterials is funded by the European Commission and is hosted and maintained by the European Chemicals Agency.   

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