Nanomaterials are already widely available on the market and are also subjected to various general regulations, but the achievement of specific regulation of all available nanomaterials is considered to be a time consuming process since there are still quite some uncertainties regarding their influence on human health and the environment. Much research is on its way regarding this topic.
The results of available studies are often difficult to compare and/or have not yet been tested/compared simultaneously at different laboratories (see Eric Gaffet Study conducted in 2011).
The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) presented in 2009 a report on the potential hazards of nanomaterials. Among other examples, the case of carbon nanotubes has been treated for the purpose of this report, showing "results that indicate that some specifically prepared carbon nanotubes - long, straight and persistent - produce the same effects on sensitive tissues as asbestos fibres’’. However, “any real risk to health depends on whether they are actually inhaled.”
It has been found that the risks vary considerably depending on the type of nanomaterial: it can therefore not be concluded that all nanomaterials are dangerous. Their small size by itself is not considered as a hazard criteria.
Moreover, some uncertainties still remain. For example, we are still lacking sufficient studies on the impact of nanomaterials’ life cycle on the environment and human health, in order to be able to scientifically assess their risks in each case. Nevertheless, the legislation continues to improve on this issue. Our FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment provides its expertise in regulation’s development and invests in scientific research. For more information see section "our actions".