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Classification of engineered nanomaterials

Manufacturers and importers need to consider whether their products contain engineered nanomaterials and might:

  • be carcinogenic, mutagenic, very toxic, toxic, harmful, sensitising, irritant, or asthma causing (or have other harmful health effects), or
  • be corrosive, explosive, flammable, or spontaneously combustible, or
  • have a National Exposure Standard assigned.

Manufacturers and importers must ensure that their nanomaterials are classified according to hazardous chemicals (hazardous substances/dangerous goods) classification criteria and, if they meet the criteria, must comply with the Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the regulation) on hazardous chemicals including safety data sheets and labels.

The classification criteria enable the health and/or physicochemical hazards to be identified so that relevant safety data sheets and labels can be easily prepared for the products determined to be hazardous.

There are no specific provisions in the regulation referring to nanomaterials. It deals with all hazardous chemicals, regardless of size, shape or physical state and does not distinguish between the nanoform, or the bulk form, of a particular molecular formula.

Nanomaterials with specific properties may require a different classification and labelling than bulk materials (a substance with different sizes or forms can have different hazard classifications).

The behaviours and effects of substances at a nanoscale are dependent on several characteristics, including size, shape, number concentration, surface area, charge and overall surface reactivity, and classification of the substances, should take into account these characteristics.

Additional testing or information may be required to address any specific hazards, associated with substances at a nanoscale. With limited understanding of the characteristics of nanomaterials, the hazard assessment should be done on a case-by-case basis.

Until specific test guidelines are determined for substances at nanoscale, where required, toxicity testing should be carried out according to existing guidelines. The mode of delivery of the testing of the nanoparticle must ensure that it reflects the relevant human exposure situations.

Manufacturers and suppliers should use the classification criteria in conjunction with the regulations to manage workplace hazardous chemicals. Employers and workers using chemicals in the workplace can identify hazardous chemicals from the supplier's label and safety data sheet.

The process of classifying a hazardous chemical is determined by applying the classification criteria. Phone Safe Work Australia on 02 6121 5317 for more information.

Last updated
04 April 2017

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