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Nanotechnology standards development

In 2005, ISO and IEC, the two major international standards development organizations, launched initiatives to facilitate the safe and responsible development and use of nanotechnologies. Two technical committees have been established — ISO/TC229 and IEC/TC113 — with some 45 member countries, including Canada, and 38 liaison groups. For reasons of operating efficiency, the work of these committees is divided up into international working groups on: Terminology and Nomenclature; Measurement and Characterization; Health, Safety, and Environment; Material Specifications; and Performance Assessment. Since 2005, Canada has held the leading international convenor roles for the Terminology and Nomenclature groups under both committees.

In the case of nanotechnology, the development of standards is taking place concurrently with research and commercialization activities rather than at a later stage in product development as in more established fields. Many nanotechnology standards are being developed from the outset at the international level, rather than by individual countries solely on a national basis, with harmonization with other countries considered for a future date. Canada's direct participation in ISO and IEC as well as the subsequent national review and adoption of international nanotechnology standards for use in Canada is managed by CSA (Canadian Standards Association).

Managed assignment of Canadian experts to participate in ISO and IEC work ensures effective input from Canada in the development of new standards. As well, a large network of volunteer members on Canada's national nano-standards committee, facilitated by CSA Group, has the opportunity to review and comment on these same standards at specific development milestones. Standards development and the associated committee work occur in a transparent manner to ensure outputs are recognized at multiple levels of use.

As of October 2012, over 26 standards for nanotechnologies have been published internationally by ISO and IEC. In Canada, these same standards are available for voluntary use. As well, select published standards from ISO and IEC are being adopted through balanced interest group technical committees facilitated by CSA Group, following an SCC-accredited standards development process. In October 2012, the first adopted ISO standard related to nanotechnologies was published for voluntary use in Canada. CSA Z12885, Nanotechnologies - Exposure control program for engineered nanomaterials in occupational settings provides guidance for the safe use of nanomaterials in the workplace. CSA Z12885 contains revisions to ISO/TR 12885 and additional guidance to reflect Canadian practices and safety considerations.

Additional ISO and IEC standards are under consideration for adoption to meet Canadian needs to support commercialization and safe use of nanotechnologies. ISO is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. For governments, International Standards provide the technological and scientific bases underpinning health, safety, and environmental legislation. ISO comprises national standards institutes from 163 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.

The IEC is the leading global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. These serve as a basis for national standardization and as references when drafting international tenders and contracts. Through its members, the IEC promotes international cooperation on all questions of electrotechnical standardization and related matters, such as the assessment of conformity to standards, in the fields of electricity, electronics and related technologies.

CSA Group is an independent, not-for-profit membership association dedicated to safety, social good and sustainability. Its knowledge and expertise encompass standards development; training and advisory solutions; global testing and certification services across key business areas including hazardous location and industrial, plumbing and construction, medical, safety and technology, appliances and gas, alternative energy, lighting and sustainability; as well as consumer product evaluation services. The CSA certification mark appears on billions of products worldwide. Standards Council of Canada (SCC), a federal organization, oversees Canada's National Standards System, the framework for developing, promoting and implementing standards. SCC accredits standards development organizations, a formal recognition of their competence to develop standards, and ability to comply with specific accreditation criteria.

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