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Products of nanotechnology

This page explains what nanotechnology is and how we are managing the potential adverse effects in New Zealand.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nanometers (ie, individual atoms and molecules). It enables microscopic devices and materials to be created. These are widely used in medicine, cosmetics, consumer products, and industrial processes.  

An example of nanotechnology is nanocoatings which have lots of uses such as:

  • products with self–cleaning surfaces
  • computer memory chips
  • surfaces of industrial equipment to reduce friction and therefore energy use
  • water-repellent clothing and sunscreens.

How we are managing the hazardous properties of nanotechnology products

A substance created using nanotechnology is regulated under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act if it has one or more hazardous properties.

An example of nanotechnology products being managed is the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) specific requirements for importing or manufacturing cosmetic products containing nanoparticles (other than zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) in New Zealand. The EPA’s group standard for these cosmetics requires importers or manufacturers to provide specific details about the cosmetics (including the name of the substance and the nature of the nanoparticles the substance contains). These details are required to ensure the substance will not cause damage to human health when applied under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.

Cosmetic products group standard [EPA website]   

Find out more 

Safety of manufactured nanomaterials [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development website]