On October 21, 2010, the European Commission (EC) began a consultation on its proposal for a definition of the term “nanomaterial” that the it intends to use as “an overarching, broadly applicable reference term” for any European Union (EU) communication or legislation addressing nanomaterials. The EC states that the definition of the term “nanomaterial” should be based on available scientific knowledge and should be used for regulatory purposes.  The definition should determine when a material should be considered as a nanomaterial for legislative and policy purposes in the EU. The EC proposes to define as a nanomaterial any material meeting at least one of the following criteria:

  • Consists of particles, with one or more external dimensions in the size range 1 nanometer (nm)-100 nm for more than one percent of their number size distribution;
  • Has internal or surface structures in one or more dimensions in the size range 1 nm-100 nm; or
  • Has a specific surface area by volume greater than 60 m2/cm3, excluding materials consisting of particles with a size lower than 1 nm.

The EC states that it intends to carry out a public consultation by 2012 and, if appropriate, review the adequacy of the definition “taking into account experience gained, scientific knowledge and the technological development.”