Download PDF
May 23, 2008

NIOSH Blog Asks Whether Carbon Nanotubes Should Be Handled Like Asbestos

Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 20, 2008, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted an entry on its science blog entitled “Nanotechnology: Should carbon nanotubes be handled in the workplace like asbestos?” The entry was prompted by the release of two recent reports contributing to the carbon nanotube/asbestos fiber comparison debate. The entry asks what the implications are to the risk assessment and risk management of carbon nanotubes in U.S. workplaces, and states:

However, questions have been raised about using these research findings for risk assessment analysis in the light of study limitations such as use of model animals, artificial administration methods, and sometimes extremely high doses, which are not representative of those exposures usually present in the workplace environment.  Such limitations are not unusual for pioneering scientific studies.  They simply mean that at this stage of the research, gaps remain that need to be closed by further study before quantitative risk assessment can be conducted.

The entry also asks how workers should be protected today, and states: “In the workplace, developing and implementing a workplace risk management program (including evaluating the hazards, assessing worker exposures, installing and evaluating engineering controls, establishing procedures for personal protective equipment, and providing worker education and training programs) can minimize worker exposure to carbon nanotubes.  NIOSH recommends that such prudent practices be used while scientists continue the research that is needed for better risk assessment.”