Nanomaterials are viewed as having huge potential in the packaging sector although take-up of the technology has so far been relatively limited. Potential applications include shelf life extension by restricting bacterial growth and inclusion in intelligent packing to measure a product’s freshness.
Perhaps nothing is more indicative of the technology’s infancy than the fact that industry, regulators and scientists have yet to agree on a definition of what a nanomaterial actually is. In April 2010, the European Parliament charged the Commission with developing a definition.
EC draft definition
Brussels has now proposed that any material classified as a nanomaterial must meet one of the three following criteria:
- It consists of particles, with one or more external dimensions in the size range 1 nm 100 nm for more than 1 per cent of their number size distribution;
- It has internal or surface structures in one or more dimensions in the size range 1 nm100 nm;
- It 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 Commission is now putting its definition forward for public consultation. Stakeholders have been invited to send their views on the definition for nanomaterials to ENV-NANO-CONSULTATION@ec.europa.eu by 19 November, 2010.
“The draft Recommendation is only intended for consultation purposes and does not represent or prejudge the Commission’s final position”, said the EC in statement.
The EC said an agreed definition was vital to ensure consistency of “forthcoming regulatory developments to guide, as appropriate, the effective implementation of existing regulation and to contribute to international work and dialogue on nanotechnology definitions”
The only legal definition of nanomaterials currently enshrined in EU law appears in Cosmetics Regulation (EC 1223/2009) as “insoluble or biopersistent and intentionally manufactured… with one or more external dimensions or an internal structure on the scale of 1-100-nanometres”.