The UK Royal Commission has issued a report on the spread of nanomaterials, stating that “urgent action [is] needed on testing and regulation”. In its report the Commission found no evidence of nanomaterials causing harm to health or the environment but raised concerns that current levels of testing and regulation are inadequate.


Consequently the report calls for REACH to be expanded to make it more suitable for the regulation of nanomaterials. The report believes that REACH is a suitable framework for regulation but fails in some aspects specific to nanomaterials.

REACH’s one tonne threshold for registration is highlighted by the report as its most significant deficiency, believing this to be too high considering the size of nanoparticles.

The report also highlights REACH’s failure to treat nanoscale versions of existing substances as separate entities, despite the potential for them to possess different properties.

Despite these shortcomings the report argues that specific regulation for nanonmaterials is not required, believing that the legislative field is already crowded. Instead the report believes that current regulations should be adapted to cover the areas where legislation is currently inadequate to deal with nanomaterials.

Some of these issues may be discussed now the European Commission has requested that the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) undertakes a review of REACH in relation to nanomaterials.

This move is welcomed by the report’s authors but they remain concerned over the timescales available to change regulations. Regarding the drug industry an aspect of the concerns is that the report believes: “little attention is paid to the ultimate fate of novel pharmaceuticals in the environment following elimination from patients.”

It also states it feels the pharmaceutical industry has put insufficient effort into “investigating the possible toxicity of ingested nanomaterials”.

There are the immediate concerns of the report but it also highlights that regulations must evolve as nanomaterials develop in coming years.

Sir John Lawton, Chair of the Commission, said: “We are also concerned that more sophisticated later generation nanoproducts will raise issues which cannot be dealt with by treating them as chemicals or mixtures of chemicals. Current testing arrangements and existing regulations are inadequate.