Nanotechnology is the use of matter on a near-atomic scale to make new materials, structures, and apparatus. The growing nanotechnology promises scientific advancement in many industries like materials, medicine, energy, consumer goods, and production. What is also growing is nanotechnology safety among the workers that are researching and developing new things.
Nanotechnology is usually defined as engineered constructions, devices, and systems. Nanomaterials are defined as those items with a length scale between 1 and 100 nanometers. At this size, materials start to exhibit unique properties that affect physical, chemical, and biological behavior. Researching, developing, and using these properties is in the center of new technology.
Employees within nanotechnology-related industries have the potential to be subjected to uniquely engineered materials with tiny sizes, shapes, and chemical and physical properties. Occupational health risks associated with fabricating and using nanomaterials aren’t yet clearly understood.
Minimal information is presently available on dominant exposure routes, possible exposure levels, and substance toxicity of nanomaterials.
Studies have suggested that low solubility nanoparticles are more lethal than larger particles on a mass for the mass base. There is strong evidence that particle surface area and surface chemistry are responsible for observed responses in cell cultures and animals.
Studies suggest that some nanoparticles can move in the lymph system to other organs. Research is ongoing to understand how these exceptional properties can lead to specific health effects.
The NIOSH Effort
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) leads the national government health and safety action for nanotechnology. Research and activities are organized through the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) founded in 2004.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are nanoparticles hazardous to workers?
Little information is available about the dangers of nanoparticles in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are conducting research to ascertain if they pose a health hazard to vulnerable workers. Various kinds of nanoparticles used or are created in many industrial processes. To determine if these nanoparticles pose a risk to employees, scientists must know the following:
- Types and densities of nanoparticles in the workplace
- Characteristics of nanoparticles that could affect the entire body
- Concentrations of nanoparticles that could produce adverse consequences
Effects in animals. Laboratory examinations in animals have shown that some kinds of nanoparticles can reach the brain, blood, and different organs of laboratory animals when they are inhaled. Several studies have shown adverse effects like inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs and other organs of animals.
Effects in people. Human studies of vulnerability and response to engineered nanoparticles aren’t currently available.
Security issues in the workplace. Fire and explosion are the primary safety hazards related to nanoparticles in the workplace. Some substances at the nanometer scale may suddenly become compound catalysts and lead to unanticipated reactions.
Existing exposure standards. No U.S. or Worldwide exposure Standards are established for nanoparticles.
Recommendations. Although more study is needed to predict the consequences of nanoparticle exposures in humans, adequate information is available to provide interim recommendations and advice about occupational exposures to nanoparticles. NIOSH recommends a sensible approach for fabricating and using nanoparticles in business. Employers should take steps to minimize employee exposures until more info is available.
2. How can employees be exposed?
Employees may be exposed by three paths:
Inhalation–The most common route of exposure is by inhalation.
Ingestion–Workers can be exposed by accidental hand-to-mouth transfer of substances or swallowing particles cleared from the respiratory tract.
Skin–Some researches state that nanoparticles may penetrate the skin. This possibility has been investigated.
Several factors affect employee exposure to nanoparticles:
- Concentration, length, and frequency of exposure all impact vulnerability.
- The ability of nanoparticles to be readily dispersed as dust (e.g., a powder) or an airborne spray or droplets might lead to higher worker exposure.
- Use of protective measures like engineering controls can decrease worker exposure. Job-related actions may also affect worker exposure:
- Active handling of nanoparticles as replacements in non-enclosed systems poses the highest risk for inhalation exposure.
- Tasks which create aerosols of nanoparticles from slurries, suspensions, or solutions represent a potential for dermal exposure and inhalation.
- Cleanup and disposal of nanoparticles may lead to vulnerability if not properly handled.
- Preservation and purification of manufacturing systems or dust collection systems might lead to vulnerability if placed nanoparticles are disrupted.
- Machining, drilling, sanding, or other production interruptions of substances containing nanoparticles can result in aerosolization of nanoparticles.
3. Can Nanoparticles be measured?
Common industrial hygiene sampling approaches can be utilized to quantify airborne nanoparticles. However, these sampling methods are restricted and need careful interpretation.
Researchers are developing more sensitive and specific sampling methods to assess occupational exposures to nanoparticles. Sampling in the workplace should include background dimensions and measurements before, during, and after handling or production of nanoparticles. These dimensions can determine if emissions and possible exposures are happening.
4. Can worker exposures be controlled?
Engineering controls should be used by employers to reduce employee exposures. These nanotechnology safety controls include source enclosures (isolating the creation source from the employee) and local exhaust ventilation arrangements. Exhaust ventilation systems using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are incredibly useful in eliminating nanoparticles. Engineering controls have been designed to reduce employee exposures to other particles with dimensions. Examples include controls for welding fume. The nanotechnology safety controls can also be useful for the manufacturing and fabrication of nanoparticles.Tags: employee safety