Technological developments in the area of nanomaterials are coming at an increasingly rapid pace. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment ’s Risks of Nanotechnology Knowledge and Information Centre (KIR-nano) was established in 2007 in order to effectively identify and evaluate the potential health risks for human beings and the environment.

The position of KIR-nano (in Dutch) is unique: it functions as a bridge between insights gained from scientific research on the one hand and (ongoing developments in) legislation and societal issues on the other. It serves as a link between different areas of knowledge and research, and translates the results obtained into policy advice. This knowledge enables improvement of the legal frameworks that are responsible for ensuring the safety of materials and products made with nanotechnology. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment then makes this knowledge accessible and understandable for the general public, policymakers, and professionals.

KIR-nano functions as a knowledge centre and interacts closely with the research areas, within RIVM as well as on a national and international level. KIR-nano therefore maintains an extensive national and international network. KIR-nano does not perform any scientific research itself.

What are the tasks and responsibilities of KIR-Nano?

  • Monitoring and identifying developments in the field of nanotechnology and the associated risks for humans and the environment. In relation to humans, KIR-nano focuses on the risks of nanomaterials for workers, consumers and patients. The emphasis is on working conditions, nutrition, consumer products, medicines and medical devices. The focus with regard to the environment is on the emission of nanomaterials throughout the entire life cycle, from initial production to the waste phase. For the environment, it is important to distinguish which environmental compartment (soil, water, or air) the nanomaterial ends up in and what the effects are on organisms.
  • Advising ministries. This mostly occurs at the request of the ministries involved, such as in case of questions from parliament, or following particular incidents.
  • Participating in national and international consultations. KIR-nano represents the Netherlands in various frameworks such as the global ISO and OECD working group(s) on the risks of nanotechnology. KIR-nano also participates in various European activities related to the risks of nanomaterials, for example via the EU Nanosafety cluster, REACH CASG-Nano, ECHA NanoMaterials Expert Group, the EFSA 'network and working group on nanotechnologies in food and feed' or the scientific committee of the European Commission that deals with the topic of ‘health, environment and emerging risks’ (SCHEER). On a national level, KIR-nano participates in the interdepartmental working group on ‘risks of nanotechnology’ (IWR), in which various ministries are represented, in the Occupational Health & Safety experts platform, and the NVWA experts platform (in Dutch) on nanotechnology. KIR-nano also organises meetings for the sharing of knowledge in the area of nanomedical applications.
  • Informing ministries, professionals, and other interested parties on the potential risks of nanotechnology. Three times a year, KIR-nano releases a newsletter (in Dutch) on present and future developments regarding the risks of nanotechnology. KIR-nano also contributes to conferences (presentations, workshops) devoted to potential risks.