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Voluntary standards


Published on 30 January 2017

In 2005, national standards organizations acknowledged the need to come up with a set of voluntary standards to ensure the safe, responsible development of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set up its Technical Committee ISO/TC 229 - Nanotechnologies(32) to develop a set of international standards to be applied on a voluntary basis.


The Technical Committee's specific tasks were to develop standards for:

- (a) terminology and nomenclature

- (b) metrology and instrumentation, including specifications for reference materials; test methodologies; modelling and simulations

- (c) science-based health, safety, and environmental practices

- (d) product specifications and evaluation methods


To date, ISO/TC 229 has published more than 50 voluntary standards; around 25 additional standards are in progress.

In addition, the European Commission gave the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) Mandate 461 to develop a set of voluntary standards that address nanomaterials' unique chemical, physical, and biological properties and nanomaterials' specific interaction mechanisms. CEN Technical Committee 352 Nanotechnologies(33)(34), chaired by French standards organization AFNOR, has been tasked with developing the standards.

It is also important to point out that the scope of certain voluntary standards developed by some of the ISO and CEN technical committees could be expanded to nanomaterials, in particular with regard to characterization (granulometry, surface analysis), air and water quality, clean rooms, risk management, protective equipment, and various market applications (textiles, construction materials, paints, plastics).

Committees have been set up in each country to liaise with CEN and ISO on behalf of their national standards organizations. France's standards organization, AFNOR, has set up the X457 Nanotechnology Standardization Commission(35), which represents France on the relevant CEN and ISO committees.

International standards organization ASTM has set up Committee E56 (36) to develop international voluntary standards in the field of nanomaterials.

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