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January 26, 2011

EU-OSHA Announces Control Banding Tool for Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 25, 2011, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) experts have developed a control banding tool specific to nanomaterials that can potentially be used in any work environment in which nanomaterials are manufactured or used. With control banding, new products are classified into “bands,” which are defined after comparison with the hazard level of known and/or similar products, while taking into account the assessment of exposure at the work station. The process combines a qualitative risk assessment with a risk control band and proposes minimum collective preventive measures to be implemented that are consistent with the estimated level of risk.  EU-OSHA notes that, “[i]n particular, the proposed tool is especially adapted to [small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME)] which do not necessarily have at their disposal the metrological characterisation equipment or detailed toxicological studies required for a proper risk assessment process.”

According to ANSES, the control banding tool is subject to the following limitations:

  • This tool is intended to be applied only to routine handling and use of materials at the work station, as part of the company’s normal operations;
  • It is suitable for any type of nanomaterial, provided that the quantities involved are neither too diluted, nor in too great a volume;
  • Control banding can be used only to determine the risks to health.  This approach does not address safety risks (fire/explosion risk), nor risks to the environment; and
  • It is essential for the user of the control banding tool to be qualified adequately in chemical risk prevention (e.g., chemistry, toxicology), nanoscience, and nanotechnology.  Using control banding without expertise, critical outlook, or support may lead to false assumptions and therefore to unsuitable choices concerning preventive measures, which could put exposed people at risk.