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MonitoringNanos - Nanos and construction

Nanos and construction

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Nanos and construction

By AVICENN Team – Last Added September 2022

Construction is one of the leading sectors using the most nanomaterials1 See sector number 1 according to the report Industrial realities in the field of nanomaterials in France – Analysis of the reality of the weight of nanomaterials in the industrial sector concerned, D&Consultants for the Directorate General for Competitiveness, Industry and Services (DGCIS, of the Ministry for Productive Recovery), June 2012 . A list of nanomaterials used in construction is available in the annual reports of mandatory declaration of nanomaterials, prepared by the National Health Security Agency (HANDLES) and published by the Ministry of Ecology2See:

In which construction products are nanomaterials found?

Self-cleaning windows, stained wood, cement and concrete3See in particular:
- Fracture toughness of one- and two-dimensional nanoreinforced cement via scratch testing, Akono AT, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A., 379, 2203, Aug 2021
- Reinforce cements by incorporating nanomaterials, Engineering techniques, September 10, 2021
- Nanos in concrete, Mathieu Porchet, Founding Partner at prllx, June 16, 2020
, paintings4See in particular:
- Pigments: The oldest nanomaterials in human history facing modern day challenges, Eurocolour & VDMI, Nanopinion, EUON, June 2020
- What if we thought a little to lower the air conditioning bill?, batiactu, February 2019: “a paint based on white ceramic nanoparticles for flat roofs can lower the air conditioning bill of large buildings”
- List of nano-pigments on the EU market : More than 80 nano-sized pigments were identified on the European market in 2018 by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
(particularly so-called "depolluting" cements and paints, the benefit-risk ratio of which is not favorable today5See in particular: Paints to purify the ambient air, CEA Liten, November 2020), varnishes, insulation materials, tiles and seals, switches, air ducts, sidewalk and road coatings6It would be nanocoatings of concrete slabs designed by the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, supposed to decompose nitrogen oxides (harmful urban pollutants) marketed in France by the company URBAPT. See “Titanium: promises and risks of a depollutant” in The civilization of nanoproducts, Jean-Jacques Perrier, Belin editions, September 2017, nanomaterials are increasingly used in building and construction.

Yet the legislation does not yet impose thelabeling products used in construction and public works, contrary to what is practiced in cosmetics, biocides andfood.

The register R-nano does not make it possible to precisely identify the products concerned either.

Nanomaterials do not appear (or very little) either in the Environmental and Health Declaration Sheets (FEDS, for construction and decoration products) or safety data sheets (FDS for substances and mixtures), despite the obligation, for the latter, to contain information on nanoforms and their risks since 2021.

It is therefore necessary to cross the sources 7Some documents can help you, including:
-Nano Pigments Inventory, ECHA, 2018: more than 80 nano-sized pigments identified on the European market
-The website identifies nanomaterials used in construction (windows, metal, etc.).
- Elcosh NANO – Construction Nanomaterial Inventory, Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR): 400 products in September 2014
-Assistance in identifying nanomaterials in companies, INRS, June 2014
-Help sheet for identifying nanomaterials (BTP), Direccte Bretagne, October 2013
, question manufacturers and suppliers, without any guarantee of being able to identify the nanomaterials in the finished products – except by resorting to laboratory tests.

What are they used for?

Nanomaterials are used in construction for their new or enhanced properties compared to conventional materials, structured on a milli- or micrometric scale:

  • the amorphous silica fumes, 100 times smaller than grains of cement, have a very high surface area, from 15 to 30 m²/gram; like the carbon nanotubes, they confer properties of fluidity or increased mechanical resistance, for "very high performance" concretes or nano-structuring repair mortars
  • the titanium dioxide nanoparticles and D'zinc oxide are praised for their ability to reduce soiling, under the effect of UV, of materials used in particular in the construction industry8See in particular:
    – “The City of Arts and Music in Chambéry, inaugurated in 2003, was one of the first buildings whose roofing cement included TiO2; soon followed by the police station in Bordeaux and the Mermoz block in Maisons-Laffitte. The Italian pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Milan in 2015 and the Jubilee Church in Rome, inaugurated in 2007, are other examples of self-cleaning white buildings using cements based on titanium dioxide": "Titanium: promises and risks of a depollutant » in The civilization of nanoproducts, Jean-Jacques Perrier, Belin editions, September 2017.
    - Nano-coating to protect buildings against pollution, Youris, September 2017
    – Eco-efficient construction and building materials, Torgal, FP & Jalali, S, construction Build. Mater., 25, 582-590, 2011
    – Application of titanium dioxide photocatalysis to create self-cleaning materials, Stamate, M.; Lazar, G. Modell. Optim. Mach., Build. Field (MOCM), 13 (3), 280-285, 2007 such as cement, ceramics, paints, varnishes

  • the silver nanoparticles are used for their antibacterial or antifungal properties
  • thealuminum oxide increases the scratch resistance of materials
  • the nanofoams (hydro-NM-oxide) and nanostructures provide good thermal and sound insulation.

What are the associated risks?

Health and environmental risks

Large-scale use of materials containing nanomaterials is not without environmental risks and worker health exposed.

  • In 2019, the European Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) SCHEER recalled10See Statement on emerging health and environmental issues, Scheer, 2018 warned about nanoparticles released into the environment by construction materials and waste (during renovation and demolition processes, during recycling, landfilling or incineration but also when the nano-coatings are not properly fixed, when they degrade). He recalled that the nanoparticles which then end up in aquatic systems can have adverse effects on aquatic and marine life and in soils. Essential microbial interactions can be disrupted. He lamented thelack of regulations requiring the labeling or identification of construction materials containing nanomaterials, which hampers the necessary identification of sources and flows of nanomaterials that may be released – as well as the assessment of the risks they may entail.
  • In 2019, a LNE webinar presented the risks associated with the thermal degradation of nanomaterials in transport and housing.

Without the possibility of identifying whether nanomaterials are present in the materials used in construction, how can we be sure of their recyclability? This lack of information on the nature of the materials poses a big problem for the circular economy in the building sector.

Economic risks

The risks are not only health and environmental: they are also of an economic nature, in particular for the contracting authorities. Indeed, asbestos removal is still very expensive today and still raises many questions.11See in particular 25 years of asbestos: the scandal continues, InfoDiag, Special Edition, September 2022. The authorities could be led to order the “denanoparticulation” of buildings, during the renovation of paintings or the deconstruction of a building for example, the clients will have to bear the costs!

Faced with the risks, some precautions?

As early as 2008, the Grand Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva advised against the use of TiO2 nanoparticle on State construction sites as well as in the constructions of private companies12Health: straight into the wall… self-cleaning, Alternative Santé, January 6, 2016 and Report M 1741-A of the Council of State to the Grand Council of Geneva 2008, on the basis of a study carried out by the Cantonal Service for Industrial Toxicology and Protection against Indoor Pollution, which considers that it is “Irresponsible to use such a product before even researching known hazards and assessing their risks”, deplores “the premature use of these products in Italy, France and Belgium” and wish "that these imprudences are not repeated on the territory of our Canton"13Annex 2 of the previous document..

What research is there on the subject?

In France, INRS, INERIS, ANSES, CEA and other research organizations in France and abroad are working to find out more. We relay their publications when we spot them.

At the French level

Of particular note:

  • Project EnDurCrete (2018-2021) carried out within the framework of the European research and innovation program Horizon 2020 thus aims to design innovative, "green" and sustainable concretes, integrating industrial by-products and hybrid systems involving nanotechnology.
  • Le “Release_NanoTox” project (funding ANSES 2015-2018) which aims to provide, through a realistic approach, new knowledge concerning the potential impact of nano-objects made from nanocomposite materials under usage constraints, on brain functions. "The in vivo toxicological impact on brain functions associated with the inhalation of an aerosol is still too little studied", it is specified in LNE. The scientific teams have developed an experimental bench making it possible to rcreate a realistic exposure from TiO2 nanoparticles produced by sanding nanoadditive materials. The Scientific and Technical Center for Building (CSTB) and the LNE (MONA Platform) participated in the aeraulic characterization phase of this bench and in the physico-chemical characterization of the nano-objects emitted in the exposure chamber. Then ANSES and the CarMeN laboratory were involved for the inhalation exposure and analysis phases. in vivo cerebral morphofunctional alterations in mice during exposure. The first results, currently being exploited, show an alteration in the locomotor performance of mice exposed to paints containing TiO2 nanoparticles 14See: -Chronic mice exposure to aerosol emitted from TiO2 nano-additives paints sanding: effect on locomotor activity, Demon F et al., Nanosafe 2018, November 2018
    -In vivo evaluation of the potential neurotoxicity of aerosols released from mechanical stress of nano-TiO2 additived paints in mice chronically exposed by inhalation, Maxinay S et al., J. Phys.: Conf. Ser., 838, 012025
    -Research activity report 2016, LNE, 2016
  • Le IMP-AIR project (Impact of photocatalytic materials on the air quality of indoor environments", CSTB, CEA): The market sees the development of nano-additive materials, many of which claim a depolluting action on the air. The IMP-AIR project studied the efficiency, harmlessness and durability of several photocatalytic materials subjected to different aging conditions: ceramics, paints, coatings and glazes. The project provided new knowledge on the impact of these materials on indoor air quality. This concerns in particular the reaction by-products formed in the presence of chemical pollution representative of indoor environments, and the release of (nano)particles during mechanical stresses.
  • Le EMANE project : "Study of the release of manufactured nano-objects according to the aging of nanocomposite materials dedicated to the building industry" (LNE, CSTB; funding from ADEME)
At the European level

At the European level :

  • The EnDurCrete project (2018-2021) aims to design innovative, "green" and sustainable concretes, integrating industrial by-products and hybrid systems involving nanotechnology, for civil, industrial and offshore applications
  • The NanoGeCo project aims to characterize the non-volatile fractions of aerosol paints in applications in the form of spray coating processes
  • A European research project entitled NanoHouse studied the life cycle of nanomaterials for construction, in particular on chronic exposure for nanoparticles of silver and titanium dioxide contained in paints and coatings used inside and outside homes. Work carried out from 2010 to 2013 evaluated the release rate of nanoparticles from only 1 to 2% – and in the form of agglomerates15Research into the safety of nanoparticles – No nano-dust danger from façade paint, EMPA, 13 January 2014; subsidized to the tune of 2,4 million euros by the European Commission, out of an overall budget of 3,1 million euros, the NanoHouse project ran from January 2010 to June 2013, with French partners CEA et ISearth.But other studies are much less reassuring : a study by INERIS and the University of Compiègne published in early 2015 showed, for example, that the titanium dioxide nanocoating applied to a building facade can deteriorate under the effect of the sun and rain; in doing so, he results in the release of titanium particles into the air within a few months – and what is more, in the form of free particles (more dangerous than when they are agglomerated together or with residues of other materials)16See Shandilya, N et al., Emission of titanium dioxide nanoparticles from building materials to the environment by wear and weather, Environmental Science & Technology, 49(4): 2163-2170, 2015; a lay summary is available free of charge here: Nanocoating on buildings releases potentially toxic particles to the air, “Science for Environment Policy”, European Commission, 28 May 2015, it is therefore appropriate under these conditions to minimize the use of nanocoatings.

Elsewhere on the web

In English :

A remark, a question? This sheet produced by AVICENN is intended to be supplemented and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

The next nano appointments

“Nano and Health” dialogue committee (ANSES, Maisons-Alfort)
Dialogue Committee
  • 14th meeting of the “nano and health” dialogue committee
  • Organizer: ANSES
  • Website :
Nanomaterials, how to identify them more efficiently? (LNE, Paris)
  • Technical Day
  • Organizer: National Metrology and Testing Laboratory (LNE)
  • On the agenda: identification of nanomaterials, recent technological innovations in terms of particle size characterization, areas for progress to be considered 
  • Upcoming program
  • Website :…
NanoSafe conference 2023 (CEA, Grenoble)
  • 8th International Conference on Health Issues for a Responsible Approach to Nanomaterials
  • June 5-9, 2023
  • Organizer: Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA)
  • Website :…  

This listing was originally created in February 2019

Notes & references

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