On July 2, 2010, the European Commission’s (EC) Joint Research Centre (JRC) announced the availability of a reference report entitled Considerations on a Definition of Nanomaterial for Regulatory Purposes. JRC prepared the report in response to a request from the European Parliament (EP). JRC states that the aim of the report is to review and discuss issues and challenges related to a definition of “nanomaterial,” and to provide practical guidance for a definition for regulatory purposes. JRC suggests that a definition for regulatory purposes should:

  • Only concern particulate nanomaterials;
  • Be broadly applicable in European Union (EU) legislation, and in line with other approaches worldwide; and
  • Use size as the only defining property.


JRC states that this calls both for a clarification of the meaning of the word “material” and a clear definition of the nanoscale limits. Enforceability of the definition will require the adoption of instructions on how such limits can be applied for nanoscale materials with size distributions. Size-derived properties, nanoscale materials incorporated in a matrix, and the origin of the material are also points that should be considered.  JRC states: “It is clear that any definition will have implications within the context in which it is used and may need adaptation for specific regulations or directives. It should therefore be emphasised that adoption of a definition will also involve policy choices, and accordingly will entail political decisions.”