The EU observatory for nanomaterials (EUON) has now been up and running since June 2017. Its mandate is to provide transparent and reliable information about nanomaterials on the EU market from a wide variety of sources and to a wide range of audiences — from researchers and the general public, to industry and decision-makers.
Is the EUON meeting its objectives?
ECHA has been mandated to host and maintain the EUON, not least because of our role in ensuring the safe use of chemicals in Europe, but also to make use of the synergies of data received from companies on nanomaterials through the REACH Regulation.
After a little more than two years of operation, we just finished a mid-term review to assess where we have succeeded, and where we can improve over the remaining years of the mandate.
The review has already highlighted areas where we can improve. Among these, the need to:
- enhance our communication;
- provide more detailed information on nanomaterials for experts; and
- provide more simplified information on nanomaterials to the public.
First, a few words on what the EUON has done so far and then I’ll tell you about some of the key upcoming developments that will help to address some of these findings.
Striking a balance to meet the needs of our audiences
One of the expectations for the EUON has been to reach out to a wide range of audiences with different levels of expertise. The EUON aims to do just that with simple and easy to understand information, complimented by robust research data and scientific content. Whether through an interactive nano-apartment where you can find out about the different nanomaterials in your daily life or a scientific study mapping the nano-pigments on the EU market, making information available in a transparent way for all our audiences is something we are continuously working on.
Databases and studies: how the EUON adds value
In addition to the incorporation of two databases to the EUON: NanoData (the nano-technology knowledgebase) and the eNanoMapper (with data and tools for the risk assessment of nanomaterials), the EUON also produces independent studies on different safety aspects with the aim of generating new data on topical issues and complimenting already existing research.
We are finalising a study on the next-generation nanomaterials in the autumn and working on three new studies:
- Critical review of the factors determining dermal absorption of nanomaterials and available tools for the assessment of dermal absorption.
- Critical review of studies on the reproductive and developmental toxicity of nanomaterials.
- Perception of nanomaterials among the general public.
For me, this is one of the main benefits of the EUON and an area where it can bring a lot of added value. I am excited to see the new data our ongoing studies will generate.
Making existing data more easily accessible
We recently launched a search tool that allows you to find which nanomaterials are reported in different national registries, from REACH registrations and the EU cosmetics inventory. We are proud to call it the most comprehensive search for nanomaterials on the EU market as it links to ECHA’s chemicals database with a wealth of information on the substances’ properties and safe use.
New nanomaterials data under REACH: synergies with the EUON
The data available on nanomaterials will see an exponential increase as of 2020 when new information requirements for REACH enter into force, feeding the EUON with more data for its various audiences. Industry will submit this new information via updates of their registration dossiers.
To assist registrants, we are preparing guidance and amending our IT tools, including IUCLID, to allow companies to report the new nanomaterial information, but also easing us to communicate it to the public. As soon as we receive new nanomaterial information, we will also make it available on the EUON website through our nanomaterials search.
Have your say on nanomaterials on the EU market
Nanomaterials are constantly developing and having a trustworthy source of transparent and easy to understand information, such as the EUON, will help in addressing concerns while promoting new innovations.
With this post, it is my pleasure to launch this new platform, the “Nanopinion” where we invite our stakeholders and partners to share their views on anything and everything to do with nanomaterials, their safety and their benefits.
I encourage you to share your view in the comments section below, and if you would like to contribute with a post of your own, let us know!
I am ECHA's Executive Director, in charge of the day-to-day management and all staff matters.
After a post-doc in probability theory in Germany, I joined the European Commission in 1991, working first at the European Chemicals Bureau at the JRC in Italy and then from 2003 in the Chemicals Unit of DG Environment in Belgium. There I became Head of Unit in 2012. I already spent 1 year in ECHA in 2007-2008 as Director of Operations.
I was involved in the development of REACH and CLP from their very early days. I have been involved in international chemicals work since 1991, highlights being elected chair of the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials and having chaired several contact groups at three consecutive UN triple COPs.
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