Controlling Worker Exposures to Nanomaterials

The US-American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
issued new recommendations for controlling worker exposures to engineered
nanomaterials during the manufacture and industrial use of those materials. The
recommendations are based on technologies now applied in the various industries
that use nanomaterials, and on control methods that have been shown to be
effective in reducing occupational exposures in other industries.

The recommendations are contained in a new document "Current Strategies for
Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling

"As we continue to work with diverse partners to study the health effects
produced by exposure to nanomaterials, particularly as new materials and
products continue to be introduced, it is prudent to protect workers now from
potential adverse health outcomes," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.
"These recommendations represent the kind of science-based guidance that our
partners have requested, as a vital component for supporting the safe growth of
nanotechnology and U.S. leadership in the global market."

Engineering controls are favored over administrative controls and personal
protective equipment for lowering worker exposures, because they are designed
to remove the hazard at the source, before it comes into contact with the
worker. However, evidence showing the effectiveness of controls during the
manufacture and downstream use of engineered nanomaterials in specific
applications has been scarce.

The NIOSH recommendations fill a gap for science-based guidance that employers
and workers can apply now, as research continues for better understanding of
nanomaterial characteristics, and ways in which workers may be exposed, that
may pose the risk of adverse health effects.

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. As more nanomaterials are introduced into the workplace and
nano-enabled products enter the market, it is essential that producers and
users of engineered nanomaterials ensure a safe and healthy work environment,
the new document states.

Processes discussed in the document and for which controls are recommended and
described include reactor operations and cleanout processes, small-scale
weighing and handling of nanopowders, intermediate and finishing processes, and
maintenance tasks. The document also includes recommendations for evaluating
the performance of control technologies and control systems.

More information - Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)