11/15/2007

European NanOSH Conference ­ Nanotechnologies: A Critical Area in Occupational Safety and Health

Engineered nanoparticles provide a qualitatively new basis for a number of
industries. The technologies that utilize them, or are concerned with matter on
the nano-meter scale, are involved in a vast number of industrial and consumer
applications. These applications contain a huge potential for both
technological and economic gains. Nanotechnologies may also provide important
means to conserve raw materials and to promote sustainable development. Both
nanotechnology development and research on engineered nanoparticles are
evolving at a dramatic pace, and the advances are also visible in the rate at
which new industrial and consumer products are being launched.

Due to their minuscule size, engineered nanoparticles have practically free
access to all parts of the body, mainly through the lungs, the gastrointestinal
tract, the skin, and neuronal pathways. In experimental conditions, several
engineered nanoparticles have been observed to cause harmful health effects:
mainly pulmonary inflammation, but they can also enter neuronal cells.

Currently, no systematic information is available on the health effects or
safety of any given engineered nanoparticle. Moreover, the existing scanty
knowledge of safety of engineered nanoparticles cannot be assessed, as
information on exposure to nanoparticles is not available. Portable and
easy-to-use methods to assess exposure to engineered nanoparticles in
occupational environments are also non-existent, as well as standards or rules
for the manufacturing or safety assessment of nanoparticles.

Even though the production of engineered nanoparticles and the number of
consumer products based on applications of nanotechnology is increasing rapidly
both in Europe and globally, we still know very little about the safety and the
health effects of nanotechnology and engineered nanoparticles. Moreover,
appropriate rules for characterizing engineered nanomaterials and methods for
testing their safety are missing. Rapid identification of the next steps
towards assuring the safety of nanoparticles in occupational environments and
consumer products is essential.

EuroNanOSH is the first European Conference focusing on occupational safety and
health from the viewpoint of nanotechnology and engineered nanoparticles in
workplaces. Currently, Europe is the leader in research on the material science
of nanoparticles. In order to retain this position and to protect workers and
consumers, Europe must ensure that the safety of nanotechnologies and
nanoparticles can be monitored in all stages of production and use. Safe
technology benefits both European workers and industries.

The Conference seeks to bring together information on how nanotechnology safety
is currently handled in Europe and how global experience could be applied to
the European situation and vice versa. In addition, it aims to provide its own
contribution to the European agenda of nanoparticle and nanotechnology safety
research. The focus must be on workers' health and work environment, as the
workplace is a likely first source of health problems caused by exposure to
nanoparticles.

The conference will take place 3­5 December 2007, Marina Congress Center,
Helsinki, Finland.

More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH)