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Innovative Materials

Current challenge: refinement of testing and information requirements

EU chemicals legislation imposes testing and information requirements on manufacturers and importers of chemicals. In the case of new “innovative” materials, these requirements prove overwhelming for many of those involved. In this context, the BAuA puts its research into action in the interests of humans and the environment.

Model of nanospheres © Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

Innovative materials offer numerous opportunities for the development of versatile new products and technologies. At the same time, the effects they have on humans and the environment usually have not been fully investigated. This applies in particular to novel materials that are still in the development phase.

Learning from nanomaterials

The results of previous safety research show that some nanomaterials release respirable particles and fibres in the workplace. These lead to health risks for workers. Three important criteria have emerged for the assessment of possible risks due to nanomaterials:

  • dust-generation behaviour, i.e. how nanomaterials generate and release airborne dusts during specific activities, as well as the nature of these dusts;
  • morphology, i.e. the shape, form and structure of the nanomaterials;
  • biopersistence, i.e. the ability of nanomaterials to dissolve in the alveolar or interstitial fluid. Biopersistence decreases as the rate of dissolution increases.

Expanding research

However, the risk of inhaling critical particles in the workplace is not restricted to nanomaterials; it can also relate to other newly developed materials. For this reason, the BAuA is expanding its research and development work on the safety of nanomaterials to include other innovative materials, taking advantage of its experience in this area of research. The aim is to refine the testing and information requirements within the bounds of European chemicals legislation and to ensure they take a practicable form.

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