Nanostructured materials: grouping according to occupational safety and health, consumer protection, environmental protection and risk reduction

Project No. IFA 3143


completed 06/2018


The fields of application for nanomaterials are becoming increasingly diverse, ranging from automotive and aircraft construction, through cosmetics and textiles, to household goods.

In the "nanoGRAVUR" project, a consortium of research institutions, public authorities and parties from industry developed a strategy for grouping nanostructured materials. The purpose was to find a clear and efficient structure for measures for occupational safety and health, protection of consumers and the environment, and risk minimization. Grouping of the measures supports practicable assessment of the release of these materials, and of exposure of human beings and the environment to them, as a result of activities involving nanomaterials. Grouping in turn simplifies risk assessment. The results of the project will support further improvement of tools for exposure assessment in the field of occupational safety and health.

This will have a positive effect on the practical prevention work of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions.


Through Unit 3.1, Exposure Assessment, of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA), the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) was directly involved in three of the four topic blocks of the nanoGRAVUR project. It assumed co-management of the work package concerning risk grouping for occupational safety and health and environmental and consumer protection. Unit 3.1 was supported by IFA’s Unit 2.3, Dusts – Fibres, and by the Institute for Research on Hazardous Substances of the BG RCI. The topic blocks in which the IFA was involved addressed the following subjects:

  • Theoretical identification of criteria and tools for grouping nanomaterials by property
  • Assessment of the groupings for the protection of human beings and the environment, and description of grouping principles applicable to all objects of protection
  • Testing of the property grouping of nanomaterials

In the individual work steps, the results of literature studies were evaluated, and criteria and classification strategies for nanomaterials were assessed to determine the strategies' suitability for practicable assessment of exposure.

Whether exposure scenarios for workplaces can be grouped by means of control banding (including a simple concept of measures, substance manager) was also reviewed.


Criteria for the grouping of nanomaterials were identified and their suitability for practical application reviewed. This facilitates and improves assessment of the groupings for protection of human beings and the environment. The results also permit better compilation of exposure scenarios and the resulting risk assessment by use of a control-banding strategy (including a simple concept of measures, substance manager).

This strategy, which is already established in occupational safety and health, was extended successfully to the environment and consumers.

In addition, not only were the criteria for grouping nanomaterials reviewed in the work packages according to substance properties, but class boundaries were also defined, (OECD and ISO) test methods evaluated, and where necessary, test methods developed within the project. These test methods were compared with the recommendations of other EU projects and those of the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (Ecetoc).

Relevant generic descriptors for risk grouping were developed, together with an application strategy for their use. Proposals for improving the existing risk grouping for occupational safety and health were also developed, and transferred to a matrix.

In a further work package, a number of test arrangements and items of apparatus were developed, and the methods developed in preceding work packages were tested in practice.

In the final work package, selection criteria for risk grouping were developed: both criteria for specific objects of protection (occupational safety and health, environmental protection, consumer protection), and generic criteria.

Further information:

  • Göhler D, Gritzki R, Stintz M, Rösler M, Felsmann C. Propagation modelling based on airborne particle release data from nanostructured materials for exposure estimation and prediction. J. Phys.: Conf. Ser., 2017.
  • Ding Y, Kuhlbusch TAJ, van Tongeren M, Sánchez Jiménez,A, Tuinman I, Chen R, Larazza Alvarez I, Mikolajczyk U, Nickel C, Meyer J, Kaminski H, Wohlleben W, Stahlmecke B, Clavaguera S, Riediker, M. Airborne engineered nanomaterials in the workplace – a review of release and worker exposure during nanomaterial production and handling processes. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2017, 322, Part A, 17
  • Koivisto AJ, Jensen ACO, Kling KI, Nørgaard A, Brinch A, Christensen F, Jensen KA. Quantitative material releases from products and articles containing manufactured nanomaterials: Towards a release library. NanoImpact, 2017, 5, 119-132.
  • Wohlleben W. et al (2014). A pilot interlaboratory comparison of protocols that simulate aging of nanocomposites and detect released fragments.Environ Chem, 11(4): 402-418.
  • Arts J.H.E. et al (2014): A critical appraisal of existing concepts for the grouping of nanomaterials. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Volume 70, Issue 2, November 2014, Pages 492-506
  • Arts J.H.E. et al (2015). A decision-making framework for the grouping and testing of nanomaterials (DF4nanoGrouping). Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, Volume 71, Issue 2, Supplement, 15 March 2015, Pages S1-S27
  • Oomen A.G. et al (2015). Grouping and Read-Across Approaches for Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(10), 13415-13434;
  • Bos P.M.J. et al (2015). The MARINA Risk Assessment Strategy: A Flexible Strategy for Efficient Information Collection and Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(12), 15007-15021;

Last Update:

25 Aug 2020


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Institut für Gefahrstoffforschung der BGRCI

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

questions beyond hazard-related issues


chemical working substances, exposure, risk assessment

Description, key words:

nanomaterials, environment, workplace, emissions, exposure, hazard potential


Further information