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Nanos and construction

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Nanos and construction

By the AVICENN team – Last added September 2022

The construction industry is one of the sectors that uses the most nanomaterials1 See the number 1 sector 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 General Directorate for Competitiveness, Industry and Services (DGCIS, of the Ministry of Productive Redress), June 2012 . A list of nanomaterials used in the construction industry is available in the annual reports on the mandatory declaration of nanomaterials, prepared by the French National Health and Safety Agency(ANSES) and published by the Ministry of EcologyCf2:

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, August 2021
Strengthening cements by incorporating nanomaterials, Techniques de l’ingénieur, 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
How about a little thought to lower the air conditioning bill, batiactu, February 2019: “a white ceramic nanoparticle paint for flat roofs can lower the air conditioning bill for large buildings”
List of nano-pigments on the EU market: More than 80 nano-sized pigments have been identified on the European market in 2018 by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
(particularly so-called “depolluting” cements and paints, whose benefit-risk ratio is not currently favorableSee5in particular : Paints to purify ambient air, CEA Liten, November 2020), varnishes, insulation materials, tiles and joints, switches, air ducts, sidewalks and roads6These are nanocoatings of concrete slabs designed by the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, which are supposed to break down nitrogen oxides (harmful urban pollutants) marketed in France by the company URBAPT. Cf. “Titanium: promises and risks of a depollutant” in La civilisation des nanoproduits, Jean-Jacques Perrier, éditions Belin, September 2017Nanomaterials are increasingly used in the building and construction industry.

However, the legislation does not yet require thelabeling of products used in construction and public works, unlike what is practiced in cosmetics, biocides andfood.

The R-nano register does not allow to identify precisely the products concerned.

Nanomaterials do not appear (or very little) in the Environmental and Health Declaration Sheets (FEDSfor construction and decoration products) nor the safety data sheets( SDS for substances and mixtures)This is in spite of the obligation, for the latter, to contain information on nanoforms and their risks since 2021.

It is therefore necessary to cross-reference sources 7A few documents can help you, including:
Nano Pigments Inventory, ECHA, 2018: more than 80 nano-sized pigments identified on the European market
-The website allows to find nanomaterials used in construction (glass, metal, …).
Elcosh NANO – Construction Nanomaterial Inventory, Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR): 400 products as of September 2014
Aide au repérage des nanomatériaux en entreprise, INRS, June 2014
Sheet to help identify nanomaterials (construction and public works), Direccte Bretagne, October 2013
In addition to the above, the company has been asked to interview manufacturers and suppliers, with no guarantee that it will be able to identify nanomaterials in finished products – except through laboratory testing.

What are they used for?

Nanomaterials are used in the construction industry for their new or enhanced properties compared to conventional materials, structured at the milli- or micrometer scale:

  • the Amorphous silica fumes, 100 times smaller than cement grains, have a very high surface area, from 15 to 30 m²/gram; as the carbon nanotubes, they confer properties of fluidity or increased mechanical resistance, for “very high performance” concretes or nano-structuring repair mortars
  • the nanoparticles of titanium dioxide andzinc oxide nanoparticles are praised for their ability to reduce the fouling, under the effect of UV, of materials used in particular in the BTPCf8:
    – “La Cité des arts et de la musique” in Chambéry, inaugurated in 2003, was one of the first buildings whose roofing cement included TiO2; it was soon followed by the police headquarters in Bordeaux and the Mermoz block in Maisons-Laffitte. Other examples of self-cleaning white buildings using titanium dioxide cements are the Italian Pavilion at the 2015 World Expo in Milan and the Jubilee Church in Rome, inaugurated in 2007″: “Le titane : promesses et risques d’un dépolluant” in La civilisation des nanoproduits, 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, Constr. Build. Mater., 25, 582-590, 2011
    – Application of titanium dioxide photocatalysis to create self cleaning materials, Stamate, M.; Lazar, G. Model. Otpim. Mach.Build. Field (MOCM), 13 (3), 280-285, 2007 as cement, ceramics, paints, varnishes

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

What are the associated risks?

Health and environmental risks

The large-scale use of materials containing nanomaterials is not without risks for the environment and the health of exposed workers.

  • In 2019, the European Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) SCHEER recalledCf.10Statement on emerging health and environmental issues, Scheer, 2018alerted on nanoparticles released into the environment by construction materials and waste (during renovation and demolition processes, during recycling, landfill or incineration but also when nanocoatings are not properly fixed, when they degrade). He recalled that nanoparticles that end up in aquatic systems can have adverse effects on aquatic and marine life and in soils. adverse effects on aquatic and marine life and in soils. Essential microbial interactions may be disrupted. He deplored thelack of regulations requiring the labeling or identification of building materials containing nanomaterials, which hinders the necessary identification of the sources and flows of nanomaterials that may be released – as well as the assessment of the risks they may pose.
  • In 2019, an LNE webinar presented the risks associated with thermal degradation of nanomaterials in transportation and housing.

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

Economic risks

The risks are not only sanitary and environmental: they are also economic, especially for project owners. Indeed, asbestos removal is still very expensive today and still raises many questionsSee11in particular 25 years of asbestos: the scandal continues, InfoDiag, Special Edition, September 2022. The authorities could be led to order the “denanoparticulation” of buildings, at the time of the renovation of paintings or deconstruction of a building for example, the owners will have to support the costs!

Faced with the risks, some precautions?

Since 2008, the Grand Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva has advised against the use of TiO2 nanoparticles on state construction sites and in private companies’ buildings12Health: straight into the wall… self-cleaning, Alternative Santé, January 6, 2016 and Report M 1741-A of the State Council to the Grand Council of Geneva, 2008based on a study carried out by the Cantonal Service of Industrial Toxicology and Protection against Indoor Pollution which considers that it is “irresponsible to use such a product before even researching the known hazards and assessing their risks”laments “the premature use of these products in Italy, France and Belgium” and wishes to “that these imprudences are not repeated on the territory of our Canton”.13Annex 2 of the previous document..

What is the research 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:

  • The EnDurCrete project (2018-2021) conducted under the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation program thus aims to design innovative, “green” and sustainable concretes, incorporating industrial by-products and hybrid systems involving nanotechnologies.
  • The “Release_NanoTox” project ( ANSES funding 2015-2018) which aims to provide, through a realistic approach, new knowledge concerning the potential impact of nano-objects from nanocomposite materials under stress of use, on brain functions. “The in vivo toxicological impact on brain functions associated with inhalation of an aerosol is still under-studied,” says LNE. The scientific teams have developed an experimental bench allowing torealize a realistic exposure from TiO2 nanoparticles resulting from the sanding of nanoadditivated materials. The Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment(CSTB) and the LNE (MONA Platform) participated in the aeraulic characterization phase of this bench and in the physicochemical characterization of the nano-objects emitted in the exposure chamber. Then ANSES and the CarMeN laboratory were involved for the inhalation exposure and in vivo analysis of the cerebral morphofunctional alterations of the mice during the exposure. The first results, which are currently being evaluated, show an alteration in the locomotor performance of mice exposed to paints containing TiO2 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. at 838 012025, 2017
    Research Activity Report 2016, LNE, 2016
  • The IMP-AIR project (Impact of photocatalytic materials on air quality in indoor environments”, CSTB, CEA): The market is seeing the development of nano-additive materials, many of which claim to have an air-polluting action. The IMP-AIR project studied the efficiency, safety and durability of several photocatalytic materials subjected to different aging conditions: ceramics, paints, coatings and stains. 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 a chemical pollution representative of the indoor environments, and the release of (nano)particles during mechanical solicitations.
  • The EMANE project: “Study of the release of manufactured nano-objects as a function of the ageing of nanocomposite materials dedicated to the building industry” (LNE, CSTB; funded by 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 nanotechnologies, for civil, industrial and offshore applications
  • The NanoGeCo project aims to characterize the non-volatile fractions of aerosol paints in process applications of spray coatings
  • A European research project called NanoHouse studied the life cycle of nanomaterials for construction, in particular on the chronic exposure for silver and titanium dioxide nanoparticles contained in paints and coatings used inside and outside of homes. The work conducted from 2010 to 2013 estimated the release rate of nanoparticles to be only 1 to 2% – and in the form of agglomerates15Research into the safety of nanoparticles – No nano-dust danger from façade paintEMPA, January 13, 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 the CEA and ISTerreBut other studies are much less reassuring : a study by INERIS and the University of Compiègne published in early 2015 showed, for example, that titanium dioxide nanocoating applied to a building facade can deteriorate under the effect of sun and rain; in doing so, it results in the release of titanium particles into the air within a few months – and moreover, in the form of free particles (more dangerous than when they are agglomerated with each other or with residues of other materials)16Cf. 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 freely available here : Nanocoating on buildings releases potentially toxic particles to the air“Science for Environment Policy”, European Commission, May 28, 2015, it is therefore appropriate under these circumstances to minimize the use of nanocoatings.

Elsewhere on the web

In English:

A comment, a question? This sheet realized by AVICENN is intended to be completed and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

The next nano meetings

How the world deals with Materials on the Nanoscale – Responsible Use and Challenges (OECD-BMUV, Berlin)
  • International Conference from June 22 to 23, 2023
  • Organizers: OECD, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection(BMUV)
  • Website: https: //…
São Paulo School of Advanced Science on Nanotechnology, Agriculture & Environment (SPSAS NanoAgri&Enviro, São Paulo)
São Paulo
  • From July 3 to 15, 2023 in São Paulo
  • Organizer: FABESP
  • Application from November 18 to February 05. Registration fees and travel expenses are covered.
  • Speakers: see the complete program here.

This sheet was originally created in February 2019

Notes & références

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