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The European Commission had just adopted a “cross-cutting designation of nanomaterials to be used for all regulatory purposes” (link). The definition builds on a draft definition released last year, but includes a number of substantial changes to this. Here’s the full text of the definition:

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One of the problems with publishing in journals like Nature is that it can get a little pricey for people to read your work if they (or their organization) don’t subscribe.  For instance, if you want to read the commentary I’ve just had published on defining engineered nanomaterials for regulatory purposes, you are facing a hefty $32 fee to push through the paywall.  Now I know that I write interesting stuff.  But I’m not sure it’s that interesting! Which is why I have just posted an earlier draft of the piece over on the Risk Science Blog. This isn’t as focused or specific as the published commentary.  But it gives a rough idea of where I’m coming from. And just because I can, I have also posted link to a later draft, and some notes on the editing process – so that those of you with more time than  sense can study in depth the evolution of the piece from initial scribblings to final product! The early draft can be read here, and the published commentary “Don’t define nanomaterials” (Nature 475, 31 2011) can be accessed here.

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I‘ve just posted a piece over on the Risk Science Blog on regulatory definitions of engineered nanomaterials.  What may come as a surprise to many readers given my comments over the years is the title – “Why we don’t need a regulatory definition for nanomaterials”!  Have I flipped, lost my senses, or what? As you might guess, I still think that engineered nanomaterials present a huge regulatory challenge – both from the perspective of avoiding unnecessary health impacts, and providing manufacturers with clear, rational rules for their safe use.  But I also have this odd idea that regulations should at the minimum be built on evidence if the resulting rules and guidelines are to have any relevance and traction. Sadly, it now looks like we are heading toward a situation where the definitions of nanomaterials underpinning regulations will themselves be based on policy, not science. This scares the life out of me, because it ends up taking evidence off the table when it comes to oversight, and replacing it with assumptions and speculation on what people think is relevant, rather than what actually is – not good for safety, and certainly not good for business. But you can read more about why I’m getting worried about a regulatory definition for nanomaterials over at the Risk Science Blog.

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2020 Science is published by Andrew Maynard - Director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University. More ... 

Andrew can be found on Twitter at @2020science and on YouTube at Risk Bites


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