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March 11, 2024

NIOSH Highlights 20 Years of Research on Engineering Controls for Nanotechnology

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

In a March 4, 2024, blog item entitled “Sweating the Small Stuff: 20 years of NIOSH Research on Engineering Controls for Nanotechnology,” the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) highlighted the control approaches that it has recommended, “based on extensive research on the pharmaceutical, coatings, and cosmetic industries”:

NIOSH states that following the publication of Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes, it developed short documents called Workplace Design Solutions to address the most common manufacturing processes. NIOSH notes that these documents include illustrations of controls along with performance criteria to allow companies or industrial hygiene consultants to identify commercially available technologies or to discuss the design with a qualified industrial ventilation firm. In addition, the following three guidance documents provide summary information on control evaluation, preventative maintenance, worker training, and housekeeping:

  • Protecting Workers during the Handling of Nanomaterials: Provides engineering control recommendations for handling of small quantities of nanomaterials using common ventilated enclosures such as chemical fume hoods, biological safety cabinets, ventilated balance enclosures, and gloveboxes. The details on how to best use each of these controls and considerations for use are discussed; and

In discussing what is next, NIOSH notes that the engineering team learns from collaborations with companies to help solve worker exposure issues and find better ways to reduce potential adverse health effects from nanomaterials. The team works closely with their colleagues within the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC), including the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Field Studies Team. According to NIOSH, over the next 20 years, NTRC “plans to seek out new industry partners. This continued collaboration will explore exposure challenges and develop cost-effective solutions to the variable landscape of nanomaterials.”