Nanotechnologies are considered an enabling technology, as they enhance the functioning of a wide range of products and processes. They are increasingly appearing in consumer products, including sun creams, socks and outdoor paints, resulting in the potential for direct access of nanomaterials (NMs) into wastewater and the environment. As such, they could be considered as the ultimate disparate source, with multiple products and multiple routes into the environment, as well as numerous transformation pathways, such that the final form may bear little resemblance to the initially produced form. NMs thus represent a significant governance and regulatory challenge, for a number of reasons, related to their small size, which makes detection challenging, especially against a background of naturally occurring nanoscale entities (clay and sediment particles, etc.), and their large surface area and high surface energy which leads to very dynamic behaviour and a strong tendency to interact with (bind) anything they come into contact with. Some initial considerations of regulatory issues related to Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, the Water Framework Directive, and the potential for benign-by-design approaches exploiting the potential for recovery or recycling of NMs at the design phase are presented, aimed at reducing the risk of unintentional accumulation of NMs in our waterways.

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