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Published on Jan 20, 2016
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials and devices. This technology promises scientific advancement in sectors such as medicine, consumer products, energy, materials and manufacturing.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), engineered nanoscale materials or nanomaterials are materials that have been purposefully manufactured, synthesized or manipulated to have a size with at least one dimension in the range of approximately 1 to 100 nanometers and that exhibit unique properties determined by their size. To put this size into perspective, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers in width and a red blood cell is about 7,000 nanometers in diameter.
At this near-atomic size, materials begin to exhibit unique properties that affect physical, chemical and biological behavior. People working in industries that utilize nanomaterials have the potential to be exposed to these engineered materials through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. NIOSH reports that occupational health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood.
OSHA’s Fact Sheet about working safely with nanomaterials states, “As nanotechnology applications move from research laboratories to industrial and commercial settings, workers and employers should be aware of potential hazards posed by nanomaterials in their workplaces and employers should take appropriate measures to control worker exposure.”
In 2015, the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) Nanotechnology Working Group released a fact sheet about personal protective equipment (PPE) for engineered nanoparticles. To protect workers from exposure risks, the document recommends a combination of controls, including: • Elimination or Reduction of Hazard/Exposure • Engineering Controls • Administrative Controls • Personal Protective Equipment
These are just a few things to know about nanomaterials and occupational exposure concerns. To learn more about this or other indoor environmental, health, safety or occupational issues, please visit the websites shown below.