Nanomaterials are produced in order for us to utilise their exceptional properties. These properties may be electrical, optical, magnetic, chemical or mechanical. They are used in many different types of products such as paints, cosmetics, textiles, sports equipment and electronic products.
Nanomaterials are very small materials that are just a few atoms in size. They are very tiny substances, and some of them have always been present around us in, say, wood smoke, salt crystals in the sea, car exhaust gas and ceramic material.
As early as the 10th century, nanosized particles of gold and silver were used in producing coloured glass and ceramics. Carbon black has been used for a long time in printing materials, rubber tyres and other black rubber products.
A substance in extremely tiny form can have completely different properties to those it has in its usual form. The specific properties of a nanomaterial may imply an increased risk to humans and the environment. Not only its technical properties but also its hazardous properties can change. Nanomaterials can enter, spread throughout and affect the body and the environment in other ways than the same substances do when occurring in their normal size.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency is monitoring developments and seeking to obtain more knowledge about the risks associated with nanomaterials. We are also working within the EU and at international level to build on the regulations for protecting humans and the environment.
Information on nanoparticles in cosmetics and hygienic products is available on the Medical Products Agency website.