News Release

Advanced materials should be safe and sustainable

Joint communication No 004/2022 from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Federal Environment Agency

Reports and Proceedings

BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

In a joint recommendation, the German higher federal authorities draw a picture of how the development of safe and sustainable advanced materials can be controlled and regulated. The term advanced materials is understood to refer to a broad and heterogeneous group of materials that have been deliberately designed to meet the functional requirements for future-oriented applications. The paper deals with the aspects of risk assessment, sustainability and control with regard to good governance and outlines relevant fields of action.

You can find the paper here:

Technical applications of advanced materials often promise to solve global challenges, for example in the areas of renewable energies, electromobility or in the health sector. However, a look at the technological history of innovative materials reveals the emergence of dangers to humans and the environment that only became known after intensive use. Today's advanced materials are complex and have a wide range of uses. Therefore, it is all the more important to regulate and control the development of novel, safe and sustainable materials at an early stage.

That is why the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) have issued a joint paper with recommendations for the responsible use and appropriate governance of advanced materials. This includes, among other things, an early warning system to identify materials that give cause for concern in a timely manner. The authorities also see the need to review and adapt existing laws, regulations and assessment methods. Only in this way can the legal framework keep pace with technical innovation.

This joint perspective is based on current discussions about concepts for safe and sustainable design (“Safe and Sustainable by Design”) of chemical substances, materials and products. In doing so, it offers recommendations regarding what needs to be considered in order to apply these concepts to advanced materials. In view of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject and the diversity of the interest groups concerned, the paper emphasises the importance of establishing dialogue mechanisms. In addition, future research needs are also determined. In particular, preliminary research should be intensified in order to support safe and sustainable early-stage development of material innovations. Research accompanying regulation is also required, examining the need for specific regulatory measures and developing adapted test and assessment methods.

The paper, which summarises current activities, considerations and recommendations of the BAuA, BfR and UBA, is intended to serve as a basis for discussion at national, European and OECD level. The joint recommendations build on the joint research strategy of the German higher federal authorities on the application safety and environmental compatibility of nano-materials and other innovative materials. They also pick up the discussions that were held in a series of three international thematic conferences organised by the UBA on advanced materials and their challenges.

Further information on the topic of novel materials on the BfR website:

Nanomaterials FAQ:
Nanomaterials Research:
Press Release 13/2019 "InnoMat.Life: Increased safety for novel materials":

About the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

BAuA is a governmental research institution subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). It conducts research, advises policy and promotes the transfer of knowledge in the field of safety and health at work. In addition, BAuA fulfils sovereign duties in chemicals and product safety regulation. More than 700 employees work at its Dortmund, Berlin and Dresden offices.

About the UBA

The German Environment Agency (UBA) is Germany's central environmental authority. The UBA collects and analyses data on the state of the environment, conducts its own research and advises the federal government. In addition, the UBA implements certain environmental laws, for example in the approval of pesticides, and informs the public on environmental issues.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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