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April 2, 2024

NIOSH Science Blog Item Highlights 20 Years of NTRC’s Field Studies Team

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Nanotechnology Research Center’s (NTRC) Field Studies Team (the Team) evaluates advanced materials and processes in workplaces ranging from large manufacturers, research and development labs, and government facilities, to schools, libraries, and other non-industrial settings. An April 1, 2024, NIOSH Science Blog item entitled “Celebrating 20 Years of Research: Highlights From NIOSH’s Nanotechnology Research Center’s Field Studies Team,” states that when the Team visits a workplace, researchers assess potential exposures from nano-related processes and materials. The Team also evaluates control technologies to reduce exposures. The blog item notes that companies that request a site visit “receive on-site expertise from NIOSH free of charge.” Companies receive a confidential report with exposure results, control evaluations, and recommendations to improve worker health and safety. The blog item notes that workers who volunteer for personal air sampling get their personal air sampling results confidentially. The final report includes these results but does not identify individual workers. According to the blog item, the benefits to NIOSH include the following examples:

  • Collect workplace exposure data that inform lab studies so that they are realistic and applicable to actual working conditions;
  • Design and improve controls that prevent and minimize worker exposures; and
  • Improve risk assessment knowledge and techniques.

According to the blog item, the Team has been studying newly developed materials, including nanocellulose, quantum dots, boron nitride nanotubes, thermoplastic filaments with nanomaterial additives, photocatalytic liquid resins, and powders used in three-dimensional (3D) printing. Because materials science is expanding rapidly, outpacing occupational health research, the Team has extended its reach from focusing on nanomaterials to include any advanced materials and related manufacturing processes. NIOSH describes advanced materials as “new or modified substances designed to perform better in at least one way.” The blog item states that “[a]lthough all nanomaterials are advanced, not all advanced materials are nanomaterials. This expanded scope allows the team to evaluate emerging manufacturing processes and products such as biomanufacturing and lithium-ion batteries.” Companies interested in a free workplace assessment of nanomaterials or advanced materials can e-mail