Reduce workers risk of exposure to nanomaterials says NIOSH

Atoms-molecules_iStock_201205Acting the results of some recent worrying research, America’s occupational health and safety body, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended new exposure levels to protect its workers’ health from the risks of nanomaterials.

A new Current Intelligence Bulletin issued by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports the results of research in which various types of carbon nanotubes/carbon nanofibers can cause pulmonary fibrosis, inflammatory effects, and granulomas in laboratory animals exposed to them by inhalation. NIOSH considers these animal study findings to be relevant to human health risk because similar lung effects have been observed in workers exposed to respirable particulates of other materials in dusty jobs.

CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has therefore recommended that occupational exposures to carbon nanotubes and nanofibers be controlled to reduce worker’s potential risk for certain work-related lung effects. NIOSH is the first federal agency to issue recommended exposure levels for this growing industry.

We are facing nanotechnology in our everyday life in many products and applications. In the cleaning sector alone, nanoparticle technology is used in high performance technology such as in anti-fogging and self cleaning windows, self-cleaning surfaces, in detergents and enhancing products with antimicrobial properties.

The number of workers that are potentially exposed to nanomaterials cannot be determined with certainty. However, the demand for nanomaterials are expected to grow over the next decade with increasing use in energy saving products, consumer goods and the structural material of medical devices. These nanomaterials are also incorporated into plastics, ceramics, paints, coatings, and electronics, among other everyday products.

Carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers are only two of many types of nanomaterials being incorporated into different products to increase strength, durability, versatility, heat resistance, and other useful properties. They are routinely used by workers in a variety of manufacturing industries including, automotive, aviation, construction manufacturers of structural materials, textiles, batteries, and consumer products such as sporting goods.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has also recognised much more still needs to be done preferably jointly by policymakers, the social partners, national occupational safety and health bodies, public health agencies, sectoral associations, etc.

In the meantime, the European safety body has developed an on-line database of company Good Practice examples of good workplace management of manufactured nanomaterials which covers eight Member States and a variety of industries such as textile, construction and medical applications.


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