Nordic Council of Ministers Releases Working Paper on Nanomaterial GHS Classifications

Posted on: September 4, 2019

by Caroline Miller, CIH, CSP

nanomaterials - Learn mmore about Nanomaterial GHS ClassificationsIn May 2019, the Nordic Council of Ministers released a working paper, “The applicability of the GHS classification criteria to nanomaterials.” The United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) provides the foundation for classifying hazardous substances and mixtures and this criteria was applied to four diverse manufactured nanomaterials for five GHS hazard classes.

The nanomaterials chosen to be classified are:

  • Single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) (biopersistent nanofibers with high specific surface area)
  • Nano silicon dioxide (nanoparticles, metal oxide with a relatively high water solubility and high specific surface area)
  • Nano silver nanoparticles (pure elemental metallic substance with high density)
  • Nano zinc oxide nanoparticles (metal oxide with a relatively low specific surface area)

The five hazard endpoints used in the classification are acute toxicity (oral, dermal, and inhalation), eye damage/irritation, skin sensitization, specific target organ toxicity repeated exposure (STOT RE) (oral and inhalation) exposure, and germ cell mutagenicity.

The OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (OECD/WPMN) has developed much data on nanomaterials that were assessed as part of the project. Other sources included NanoReg project (EU 7th framework), the NanoSafety Cluster projects, relevant REACH registrations of the substances and internet literature searches. The test data was assessed in the following four areas:

  • Applicability of the test methods;
  • Applicability of the GHS criteria and proposed classification;
  • Identified data gaps and uncertainties; and
  • Need for revision of GHS criteria or further guidance.

The assessment resulted in the following classifications:

SWCNT: Eye Irritation 2; STOT RE 1 (inhalation, lung); Mutagenicity 2

Nano silicon dioxide: STOT RE 1 or 2 (inhalation, lung)

Nano silver: STOT RE 1 inhalation, lung) may be considered

Nano zinc oxide: not sufficient data for classification


Recommended Action Items:

  • Assess your chemical inventory to determine if these chemicals are manufactured, used, or distributed by your company
  • Review the safety data sheets (SDSs) for products containing these chemicals to determine if the products are classified properly. Please note that the chemicals may be classified in other endpoints not included in the assessment (i.e. hazardous to the aquatic environment).


Nordic Council of Ministers. The applicability of the GHS classification criteria to nanomaterials:


Nanomaterials, GHS Classifications, SWCNT, silicon dioxide, silver, zinc oxide

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