Skip booklet index and go to page content

Nanomaterial Uses

Nanomaterials Use Matrix: Purpose, Inclusions and Findings

Purpose and Inclusions

The information on nanomaterial uses gathered through the RCC Nanotechnology Initiative has been used to create a Nanomaterials Use Matrix. This represents the most up-to-date information the Canada/US Programs have on a wide range of known commercially available nanomaterials. The data was collected from a variety of sources, as outlined in Sections 2.0 and 3.0, including information from the Canadian and US regulatory programs, publicly available and third-party information (such as the Future Markets report and the Nanowerk database). As well, the Canada/US Programs undertook extensive consultation with industry stakeholders to inform the Nanomaterials Use Matrix. This matrix lists nanomaterial uses that are (likely) currently or soon to be commercially available in Canada and the US.

The purpose for developing the Nanomaterial Use Matrix was to assemble a common foundation of information on commercially-relevant potential uses of nanomaterials in Canada and the US beyond those that are solely covered by new substances requirements under CEPA 1999 and TSCA. This information will provide the Canada/US Programs with a better understanding of potential exposures associated with various use scenarios.  This should, in turn, help focus the Canada/US Programs information collection efforts on those uses with greatest potential for exposure, and may be used for the refinement of generic exposure models. However, the Nanomaterials Use Matrix in this document is not, by itself, a prioritization list or a categorization of nanomaterials of concern/no-concern, nor is it intended to be a verified/confirmed source of information on nanomaterial applications or products involving nanotechnology currently in the marketplace.

The Canada/US Programs recognize that the use categories in the Nanomaterials Use Matrix inevitably lead to areas of overlap as some categories represent more specific application areas than others.  For example, silver is used in inks and also in electronics.  The use matrix will continue to evolve as information becomes available.

Furthermore, the use matrix includes information about end products that are not within the scope of uses managed under the Canada/US Programs as they are regulated under other statutes (e.g. medical devices, drugs, cosmetics, food contact materials, and pesticides). All available information was incorporated for all known or reported uses of nanomaterials in order to estimate the potential cumulative exposure to workers, general population and the environment from industrial uses in risk assessments of substances under TSCA or CEPA 1999.   Whether a particular use does or does not fall under TSCA jurisdiction, awareness of the various applications of a given nanomaterial will help the Canada/US Programs understand how its properties are intended to be applied in materials or products (e.g., antimicrobial properties of silver nanoparticles being used in textiles).

Finally, some of the third party sources of use information did not clearly distinguish between known and potential commercial uses; identification of a particular nanomaterial for a particular use does not imply that such materials have undergone relevant regulatory reviews. It is important to note that inclusion of a material/end product in the matrix does not confirm that the material/end product is currently in commercial use, has undergone relevant regulatory reviews, and/or has been approved/registered by relevant regulatory authorities.  The inclusion of the material/end product in the use matrix is based on information available to or gathered by the Canada/US Programs, and includes unverified information gathered from publicly available databases. In addition, some of the reported uses covered in the matrix may relate to uses for investigational purposes only (rather than for commercial use).  The Canada/US Programs used information about the stage of commercial development, as well as their best professional judgment, when deciding whether to include a particular use for a given nanomaterial.   

Nanomaterials Use Matrix Findings

The Nanomaterials Use Matrix is attached in Annex 1. Figure 1 shows the number of nanomaterials that were found per use category.  The categories in which the greatest numbers of nanomaterials are currently being used are: coatings, electronics, catalysts, inks and pigments, plastics, batteries, rubbers, ceramics and paints. This trend is similar to the uses identified by the Canada/US Programs from their NSNs and PMNs.

It should be noted that the uses information does not take production/import volumes into consideration since this information was not readily available.  Volume information could be used to enhance understanding of the uses, which would better inform exposure scenarios.  For example, electronics have a large number of nanomaterial uses listed in the matrix, but the total volume of nanomaterials used may be very low. Conversely, carbon nanotubes are the only nanomaterial used in the sporting goods category; however, they may be used in high volumes. The Nanomaterials Use Matrix also does not include specific information on the exact molecular identity of a particular nanomaterial, which may significantly alter the potential for exposure.  

Another way to examine the information in the Nanomaterial Use Matrix is to see which nanomaterial classes are represented in the various uses. Figure 2 provides a breakdown of the number of uses within each class of nanomaterials.  Metal oxides/metalloid oxides are the most frequently used nanomaterials, followed by organics, carbon nanotubes, metals/metalloids, inorganic carbon, and quantum dots.  Enhancing Figure 2 with volume data (once available) would provide further insight into the relative importance of different classes of nanomaterials in Canada and the US.

Note that in both Figures 1 and 2, there may be overlap in some areas.  For example, some uses are referred to by their functions - emulsion stabilizers, flame retardants - and others are based on end products.

Figure 1: Number of Nanomaterials by Use Category in the US and Canada

Amount of Nanomaterials by use catagory

Figure 2: Number of Uses by Nanomaterial Class in the US and Canada

Number of Uses by Nanomaterial Classes.