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November 2, 2016

NIOSH Announces Sampling Strategy to Help Identify Potential Nanomaterial Exposure in an Occupational Setting

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On November 1, 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a blog item entitled “Never fear!  NEAT 2.0 is here! — How to perform nanomaterial exposure assessment in the workplace.”  NIOSH notes that in 2009, it developed and was the first to recommend using the nanoparticle emission assessment technique (NEAT).  According to NIOSH, NEAT made use of a condensation particle counter to identify tasks that result or can result in the emission of nanoparticles into the surrounding air.  Task-based filter samples were then used to confirm the presence of nanoparticles, using both laboratory elemental analysis and electron microscopy.  NIOSH states that this initial approach did not effectively address the potential for background contamination from incidental nano-sized particles or exposure over a full workday.  It was also heavily dependent on the use of direct reading instruments (DRI), which are nonspecific aerosol monitors and subject to interferences such as background incidental particles.  Based on the need to surmount these limitations, and a desire to learn more about potential occupational exposures, NIOSH updated NEAT.  The September 2016 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene includes an article on the update, “Refinement of the Nanoparticle Emission Assessment Technique into the Nanomaterial Exposure Assessment Technique (NEAT 2.0).”  NIOSH states that NEAT 2.0 “is a more robust sampling strategy that places a stronger emphasis on full workday exposures, incorporates background monitoring, and emphasizes the importance of integrated filter sampling in the worker’s breathing zone over the use of DRIs.”  NEAT 2.0 consists of the following steps:

  • Collect Basic Workplace Information:
    • Work flow, number of workers, tasks performed, materials used, other indicators of potential exposure;
  • Design and Implement the Sampling Plan:
    • Full-shift and task-based integrated filter sampling, DRIs, evaluate engineering controls;
  • Risk Assessment:
    • Evaluate data: Background, engineering controls;
    • Use hierarchy of controls to develop mitigation strategies for exposure potential; and
    • Communicate potential risks;
  • Risk Management:
    • Confirm ongoing control of risk by performing additional measurements, if necessary.

According to NIOSH, in performing the above steps, a comprehensive exposure assessment can be performed and assist with the identification of potential nanomaterial exposure in an occupational setting.  NIOSH states that NEAT 2.0 “will guide facilities in determining exposure potential for workers who are handling or using engineered nanomaterials.  By determining exposure potential, the facility can then work to control exposure making use of mitigation strategies and the hierarchy of controls.”