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Controlling Exposures to Workers Who Make or Use Nanomaterials

Categories: Engineering Control, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology

 
 
 
 
 

A simple hood capturing powder from a mixing tank in a nanomaterial production facility. Photo by NIOSH.

Background

Engineered nanomaterials are materials that are intentionally produced and have at least one primary dimension less than 100 nanometers (nm). Nanomaterials have properties different from those of larger particles of the same material, making them unique and desirable for specific product applications.  The consumer products market currently has more than 1,000 nanomaterial-containing products including makeup, sunscreen, food storage products, appliances, clothing, electronics, computers, sporting goods, and coatings [WWICS 2011].

It is difficult to estimate how many workers are involved in this field. By one estimate, there are 400,000 workers worldwide in the field of nanotechnology, with an estimated 150,000 of those in the United States [Roco et al. 2010]. The National Science Foundation has estimated that approximately 6 million workers will be employed in nanotechnology industries worldwide by 2020.

New Findings on Lung Tumor Formation in Laboratory Mice Exposed to Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes

Categories: Cancer, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology

Alveolar Bronchiolar Carcinoma of the Lung with Metastases in a Blood Vessel (arrow). Photo courtesy of Linda Sargent, Ph.D., NIOSH

 Earlier today, at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology, NIOSH researchers reported preliminary findings from a new laboratory study in which mice were exposed by inhalation to multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT).  The study was designed to investigate whether these tiny particles have potential to initiate or promote cancer.  By “initiate,” we mean the ability of a substance to cause mutations in DNA that can lead to tumors.  By “promote,” we mean the ability of a substance to cause cells that have already sustained such DNA mutations to then become tumors. 

It is very important to have new data that describe the potential health hazards that these materials might represent, so that protective measures can be developed to ensure the safe advancement of nanotechnology in the many industries where it is being applied.

Safe Handling of Advanced Nanomaterials

Categories: Manufacturing, Nanotechnology

In the last five years, research and development activities in the field of nanotechnology have shifted to include advanced nanomaterials. The main feature of advanced nanomaterials that distinguishes them from simpler nanomaterials, such as carbon black and nanoscale TiO2 used primarily as additives, is the ability of advanced nanomaterials to change or evolve properties during their use, as a result of intended and unintended reactions to the external environment.  Examples of advanced nanomaterials include nanomaterials functionalized for specific applications, such as nanoscale gold used in cancer treatment therapies, quantum dots used in medical imaging of the body, and carbon nanotubes and graphene used in electronics.  Depending on the type of nanomaterial and the conditions of exposure, such a change of properties may result in health risks to workers handling advanced nanomaterials if exposure is not adequately controlled.

Respiratory Protection for Workers Handling Engineered Nanoparticles

Categories: Manufacturing, Nanotechnology, Respiratory Health

Assessment of nanoparticle capture

Figure 1. Assessment of nanoparticle capture: n = 5; error bars represent standard deviations Sodium Chloride (TSI 3160); Silver (custom-built); Flow rate 85 L/min

Introduction

Each day millions of workers in the United States use National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certified respirators to reduce exposure to harmful gases, vapors, and particulate hazards. NIOSH has certification, quality assurance, and auditing procedures in place (42 CFR Part 84) that assure purchasers and users that the products they are buying/using have been tested and manufactured to strict standards. When selected, maintained and used in the context of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-compliant respiratory protection program, in which personal protective technology is part of the hierarchy of controls to protect the worker, respirator users can expect that their respirator is working and reducing the amount of hazards that they could potentially breathe. However, as new hazards emerge, the applicability of the science that NIOSH uses to base respirator test methods, performance requirements, and use recommendations needs to be continually reaffirmed, updated and improved to assure the expected level of protection is provided.

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