The Nanotechnology Research Center Carbon Nanotube Registry

Posted on by Kaitlin Kelly-Reif, PhD, and Mathew Dahm, PhD


To celebrate the Nanotechnology Research Center’s (NTRC) 20th anniversary, we are highlighting the ongoing efforts of the Center’s Carbon Nanotube Registry. This is a long-term National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research effort dedicated to understanding workplace health risks associated with carbon nanotubes.

What is the Carbon Nanotube Registry?

A registry collects records that can be used to investigate diseases within a population. The Carbon Nanotube Registry is a roster of U.S. workers employed in various carbon nanotube industries. The registry can be used to study long-term health effects. Researchers will track workers in the registry to see whether higher rates of disease are observed compared to other workers or the general population. The more workers included in the registry, the more powerful and informative the study will be. NIOSH follows strict guidelines for protecting electronic records of individuals such as encryption of data and limiting data access to a small number of researchers.

Why did the NTRC develop this registry?

In the early 2000s, published research showed a potential for lung disease in laboratory animals after exposure to carbon nanotubes. To better understand worker exposures, NIOSH began a study collaborating with companies across the United States. NIOSH enrolled workers across the United States to participate in the study and asked them questions about their health. NIOSH also performed onsite health exams at the workplace. Exams included a spirometry test and bloodwork to look at relevant pulmonary and cardiovascular clinical health outcomes, and some biomarkers of early health effects.

Results from this study found no associations between carbon nanotubes exposures and loss in breathing or lung function. However, it found an increase in workers’ resting heart rates as their carbon nanotube exposures increased. NIOSH also saw an increase in workers reporting respiratory allergies after they began working with carbon nanotubes. The results of this study gave NIOSH useful insights into some early indicators of health outcomes that might occur when a worker is exposed to carbon nanotubes.

However, in this preliminary study NIOSH could not learn about possible long-term effects that may occur years after exposure. NIOSH developed the Carbon Nanotube Registry to help researchers better understand the average level and range of exposures in U.S. workplaces. The exposure registry also provides a group of workers who NIOSH can follow into the future to help identify chronic diseases that may result from these exposures.

How does this registry work?

NIOSH is recruiting companies that produce or handle carbon nanotubes to participate in the registry. When a company decides to participate in the registry, NIOSH researchers will work with company representatives to securely transfer their workplace personnel records to a NIOSH database.

NIOSH will use these records to understand how long employees have been working with carbon nanotubes and to follow employees over time. NIOSH needs to collect records for both current and former employees to ensure that anyone who left work because of illness is included. NIOSH is also interested in some employees who have never been exposed to carbon nanotubes, for comparison purposes.

Why should companies consider participating?

It is very important that companies that produce or use carbon nanotubes participate in this registry. Contributing data to the study will improve NIOSH’s understanding of any health risks associated with workplace exposures to carbon nanotubes. Understanding these risks are an important step in protecting workers.

Companies that take part will receive a free workplace assessment. During this assessment, NIOSH researchers will identify and learn about potential exposures. In addition, companies that participate will receive a detailed report that describes if and to what extent exposures are occurring at their workplace. The report will also recommend ways to reduce exposures if they exist.

What will NIOSH do with the data?

NIOSH will publish the results of registry health studies in the scientific literature. Before publishing results, companies that participate in the registry will have an opportunity to review the publications to ensure their privacy is maintained. NIOSH does not publish company names or information that could identify companies or individual workers. All results are shared in a deidentified and summarized format.

Is your company interested in participating in the registry?

NIOSH continues to enroll companies into the registry. If you are interested in participating, have questions, or would like more information, contact us at

To explore more of NIOSH’s work in Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, visit


Kaitlin Kelly-Reif, PhD, is a Research Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.

Mathew Dahm, PhD, is a Senior Industrial Hygienist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.


This blog is part of a series to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Nanotechnology Research Center. Click here for additional blogs in the series and on other nanotechnology topics. 


Posted on by Kaitlin Kelly-Reif, PhD, and Mathew Dahm, PhD

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: May 2, 2024
Page last updated: May 2, 2024