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January 18, 2017

NIOSH Accepting Input on How Best to Protect Workers, Including in Nanotechnology

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

John Howard, M.D., Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), authored a January 10, 2017, NIOSH blog item entitled “Occupational Health Issues in the USA.”  Howard shares a recent editorial he wrote in Occupational Medicine, “Occupational health issues in the USA,” that highlights some of the occupational safety and health issues identified as needing attention by the industry sector groups of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). The identified issues include nanotechnology, and the blog item states:

Risk characterization of a new technology to quickly determine if it raises safety and health issues for workers should be a priority for occupational health researchers and practitioners.  Engineered nanomaterials and devices demonstrate novel size-dependent properties and behavior that hold great promise in many areas of benefit to society such as new lightweight but stronger materials, new pharmaceuticals, enhanced water filtration, and advances in regenerative medicine  The challenge is 2-fold — does the nature of engineered nanomaterials present occupational safety and health hazards, and, if so, how can the benefits of nanomaterials be realized while proactively minimizing or eliminating the potential risks?  Although the occupational health implications of advanced manufacturing involving nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood, it is prudent to take precautions to protect workers until the risks can be fully characterized.

According to the blog item, NIOSH “welcome[s] input on how to best protect workers in these areas in the comment section below.”