The repository holds a representative range of 25 different types of nanomaterials and will enable harmonised risk assessment, said the body. Such safety assessment support will also underpin consumer protection and confidence in the wealth of new products that the technology is likely to generate, it added.
The facility contains most types of nanomaterials currently believed to be used in significant volumes in consumer products – including carbon nanotubes, silver nanoparticles, titanium dioxide, cerium oxide, zinc oxide, bentonite, gold and silicon dioxide.
Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, is widely viewed as one of the most promising fields for the development of novel products across a host of areas as diverse as packaging, food formulation and cosmetics, as well as medical and electronic devices.
However, as the technology has expanded, regulatory bodies have signalled the need for the development of safety protocols and assessments on the materials. As FoodProductionDaily.com reported last month, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) has recently published a guide to assessing toxicity risks from exposure nanomaterials and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also issued a risk assessment framework.
The JRC confirmed it was acting on such concerns and had created the repository in response to needs for safety-assessment testing from experts in the major international standardisation bodies.
“For European industry to capitalise in the best sense from nanotechnologies, it is essential that the EU has a well-considered regulatory framework covering issues related to safe practices in the manufacturing process, consumer health, and protection of the environment,” said the research body.
Harmonisation of testing is key, it added. To ensure the comparability of the underlying data obtained across the globe the availability of representative reference nanomaterials was essential.
Elke Anklam, director of the JRC Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP), said: "This unique repository fosters standardisation in safety assessment and facilitates innovation by creating a common and consistent measurement framework for all stakeholders. This will both support international harmonisation bodies for standardising risk assessment as well as EU policy makers for regulatory issues."
Some 8,000 test samples have already been distributed to European national authorities and EU-funded research projects. They have also been used in international scientific co-operation initiatives - such as the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials.
The JRC said the nanomaterials in the repository had been produced with the German Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) conditions.