The currently existing models and techniques provide insufficient certainties in the assessment of the harmfulness of nanoparticles and nanomaterials to people and the environment. There are indications that some nanoparticles have harmful characteristics, but it is insufficiently clear why this is the case with these particular particles. Other nanoparticles do not give any reason for concern for the time being.

This is the conclusion from an RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment overview of the scientific knowledge about risk assessment concerning nanoparticles and nanomaterials and their applications. Nanoparticles are ultra-small particles with particular properties, providing unparalleled opportunities. They can strengthen materials and objects, improve the performance of solar cells or ensure drugs are targeted to a place in the body where they are needed.

Promising properties

As a result of these promising properties, major investments are made in nanotechnology and it is impossible to imagine life today without this technology. Nanoparticles have different properties and behave differently from the classic and larger building blocks in substances.

New developments

In order to assess the products that are currently being developed, risk assessment is carried out using the limited data available. In view of the pace of technological innovation, RIVM points out the necessity to pragmatically accelerate this risk assessment and invest in new approaches, such as safe innovation, in which the safety of a product is intrinsic to the innovative process.

Reliable data about the behaviour of nanoparticles and nanomaterials, and knowledge to predict their properties, are of crucial importance for a risk assessment to be satisfactory in the long term. Additional attention is required for the next generations of nanomaterials – such as self-organising materials – because the development of knowledge about these particles and materials is still in its infancy.