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March 21, 2013

Australia Releases Research Reports on Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Issues

Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 18, 2013, Safe Work Australia (SWA) released two research reports examining nanotechnology work health and safety issues, Investigating the Emissions of Nanomaterials from Composites and Other Solid Articles During Machining Process and Evaluation of Potential Safety (Physicochemical) Hazards Associated with the Use of Engineered Nanomaterials. SWA noted the perceived safety risks of nanomaterials and that Australia is taking a precautionary approach towards nanomaterials under the National Enabling Technologies Strategy. SWA Chair Ann Sherry stated that while the risk to human health and safety from a number of nanomaterials and applications is low, some nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, are potentially more hazardous. SWA’s press release states: “Minimisation of exposure to nanomaterials at work is essential until there is sufficient data to rule out hazardous properties. Research has shown if conventional engineering controls are designed and maintained effectively, exposure to nanomaterials can be significantly reduced.” According to the press release, as a result of the findings in the research reports, SWA intends to prepare guidance material on combustible dust hazards, including nanomaterials.