OECD countries address the safety of manufactured nanomaterials
The OECD has recommended its Member Countries apply existing international and national chemical regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with manufactured nanomaterials.
The Recommendation, approved by the Organisation’s governing Council, noted that these frameworks and other management systems may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of manufactured nanomaterials.
Manufactured nanomaterials are chemical particles that exhibit new characteristics in contrast to the same material without nanoscale features. These novel features offer possibilities for new commercial applications, such as solar cells using silicon nanocrystals to achieve higher efficiency. They also raise questions regarding potential unintended risks to humans and the environment. For example, new manufactured nanomaterials have applications in sunscreens and cosmetics, and so the potential risk from their exposure to consumers needs to be carefully assessed and managed.
The OECD has been working since 2006 to develop approaches for risk assessment for manufactured materials that are of high quality, science-based and internationally harmonised.
The Recommendation notes the importance of the OECD Test Guidelines for the Safety Testing of Chemicals, concluding that many of the existing guidelines are also suitable for the safety assessment of nanomaterials. At the same time, it recognises that some guidelines may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of nanomaterials. Work continues at OECD to achieve that.
An important consequence of this Recommendation is that much of the data collected as part of the safety assessment of nanomaterials will fall within the scope of the OECD system for the Mutual Acceptance of Data (MAD) in the Assessment of Chemicals. The OECD Mutual Acceptance of Data system is a multilateral agreement which saves governments and chemical producers around €150 million every year by allowing the results of a variety of non-clinical safety tests done on chemicals and chemical products, such as industrial chemicals and pesticides - and now nanomaterials - to be shared across OECD and other countries that adhere to the system. Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa as well as all OECD countries are full adherents to the MAD system, and Thailand is a provisional adherent.
The extension of the scope of MAD to nanomaterials will considerably reduce the potential for non-tariff trade barriers between countries when marketing manufactured nanomaterials or products which include nanomaterials as well as allow for sharing the workload between countries in testing and assessing all the nanomaterials which are on the market. There will be a review of the Recommendation in three years to assess how it has been implemented in OECD countries and those partner countries which have adhered to it.