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France issues nano-risk management method

By Rory Harrington , 05-May-2011
Last updated on 05-May-2011 at 13:07 GMT

Categorising nano-based materials into hazard bands is the core of a new risk assessment technique put forward by French authorities as regulatory bodies continue to explore ways to manage possible threats from the ground-breaking technology.

Anses, the French Agency for Food, Environment, Health and Occupational Safety, said it developed the “simple, accessible and highly operational” model as part of a three-year project to control possible risks from exposure to nano-particles – which are being developed across a huge raft of industries, including food packaging and formulation.

Nanotechnology refers to controlling matter at an atomic or molecular scale measured in nanometres, or millionths of millimetres. In the food industry, the technology could have a variety of uses including detecting bacteria in packaging, nano-coating processing equipment to stay cleaner for longer or producing stronger flavours and colourings.

Control banding

The body has proposed using a method known as “control banding”. The tool, originally developed in the pharmaceutical industry, is designed to guide risk management in fields where there is uncertainty about the required data needed. In this case, the uncertainty centres on both the hazards of nanomaterials and exposure levels. It uses both existing information but also makes a number of assumptions, said Anses.

Under the system, new products are allocated ‘bands’ – which have been developed according to the hazard level of known or similar products. It also takes into account exposure in a work environment.

The method derives minimum prevention measures – either for individuals or collectively - by combining qualitative risk assessment with a risk control band.

“The tool thus allows risk managers to apply a graduated response by taking into account both the potential hazards represented by the nanomaterials concerned and the estimated levels of exposure”, said French scientists.

Control Banding can potentially any work environment employing nanotechnology and has been specifically designed for SMEs, they added.

Other guidance

Risks presented by exposure to nanomaterials has received close attention in recent months with the publication of a number of assessments by leading bodies including the European Food Safety Authority and the ISO (International Organisation for Standardization).

The report, Development of a specific Control Banding Tool for Nanomaterials, was used by the French standards Institute as part of its submission to the ISO on nano-safety.

To read a copy of the report click HERE

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