The Canadian government could become the first in the world to require companies to report the use of potentially harmful nanomaterial in their products, an expert group in the U.S. reported Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies said Ottawa has been working with industry to develop the new regulations. The government is reportedly planning to release the plans in February.

The group, a watchdog organization that monitors the development and commercialization of nanotechnologies, said governments worldwide lack information on the type, quantity and possible risks of nanomaterials in commercial products.

Information collected under the requirement will be used to evaluate the risks the materials may pose to health and the environment, the group said.

Last July, a group of Canadian scientists and academics told the federal government that Ottawa urgently needs to assess the potential risks of nanomaterials, but the government has yet to respond to their report.

It is estimated that more than 800 consumer products containing nanomaterials are being sold around the world. They include skin care products, cosmetics, electronics, food additives and medical therapies.

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating particles smaller than 100 nanometres — more than 800 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

With files from Canadian Press