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March 3, 2008

NIOSH Publishes “Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace”

Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 29, 2008, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the availability of a brochure entitled “Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace: An Introduction for Employers, Managers, and Safety and Health Professionals.” The brochure addresses the following questions: whether nanoparticles are hazardous to workers; how workers can be exposed; whether nanoparticles can be measured; and whether worker exposures can be controlled. The brochure states that little information is available about the hazards of nanoparticles in the workplace, and that NIOSH is conducting research to determine whether they pose a health threat to exposed workers. According to the brochure, workers may be exposed by three routes: inhalation (the most common); ingestion; and skin. Traditional industrial hygiene sampling methods can be used to measure airborne nanoparticles, and scientists are developing more sensitive and specific sampling techniques. The brochure states that worker exposures can be controlled with engineering controls, respirators, and training.