NIOSH Resources Provide Guidance for Controlling Exposures to Nanomaterials
Four new documents published by NIOSH provide recommendations to companies for controlling possible occupational exposures to nanomaterials. According to the agency, workers in industries that use or make engineered nanomaterials—for example, in medicine, electronics, biomaterials, and consumer products—may inhale nanoparticles on the job, which poses a potential respiratory hazard.  Engineered nanomaterials have at least one primary dimension less than 100 nanometers, and have unique physical and chemical properties. The health effects associated with nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood, so NIOSH urges producers and users of engineered nanomaterials to reduce employee exposure and manage risks appropriately.  The new NIOSH documents cover recommendations on minimizing exposures during processes and tasks such as handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring and dumping; harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced; and processing of nanomaterials after production. The publication “Controlling Health Hazards When Working with Nanomaterials: Questions to Ask Before You Start” is a poster that presents options for controls and personal protective equipment based on whether the nanomaterial is a dry powder, suspended in liquid, or encapsulated in another material. The agency provides information on the design, use, and maintenance of exposure controls for nanomaterial production, post processing, and use.  More information on engineering controls for worker exposure during the production or use of engineered nanomaterials can be found in “Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes.”