A Regulator’s Approach to Nanomaterials

S. Takatori, J. Wong
California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), US

Keywords: environmental health and safety, regulation, nanomaterial definition, oversight


Policymakers and regulators appear to have a mistaken belief that a singular overarching definition of “engineered nanomaterials” is a requirement for any possible regulatory strategy. Previous attempts, most recently by the European Commission, have shown that a “one-size-fits-all” definition is difficult to develop from both a scientific and consensus perspective. A black-and-white definition based on material size alone inevitably fails to provide scientific justification in favor of specific standards and criteria for triggering regulatory action. Is a material not a nanomaterial if its size exceeds the defined “thresholds” by 1 nm? It appears that the struggle for consensus has propelled authoritative bodies to arrive at definitions that are a reflection of approach and policy expediency rather than comprehensive scientific consideration. Reliance upon a singular overarching definition appears to be the wrong regulatory strategy. We propose an alternative approach. Policymakers and regulators need from experts in the field an improved chemical registry system with a dynamic collection of all emerging chemicals and their material property information. The registry would include all emerging chemicals (including nanomaterials) with scientific evidence guiding the presence of environmental and/or health risks not captured by existing regulations.