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April 4, 2008

NIOSH Seeks Participants for Field Research and for Metal Oxides Study

Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 25, 2008, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted fact sheets regarding several initiatives for which it seeks participants. NIOSH states that the initiatives are fully funded by NIOSH, and there is no monetary cost to the participant.  The first two fact sheets concern NIOSH’s Nanotechnology Field Research Team, which is available to conduct site visits at facilities involved in the research, manufacture, or use of various types of nanomaterials. The third fact sheet describes NIOSH’s metal oxide particle exposure assessment study, for which NIOSH seeks manufacturers and end-users of fine and ultrafine metal oxides.

  • Nanotechnology Field Research Team Update: NIOSH conducted site visits to facilities involved in the research, manufacture, or use of various types of nanomaterials. NIOSH is using the information it obtained to develop workplace guidance documents to protect nanotechnology workers from occupational injury and illness. NIOSH states that it learned that:
  • Basic particle counting and sizing instruments can be used to identify emissions from nanomaterial processes;
  • Careful interpretation of the particle data is needed to differentiate between incidental (background) and process-related nanoparticles; and
  • Engineering controls do minimize workplace exposure to engineered nanoparticles.

NIOSH encourages companies interested in receiving a visit by the Field Research Team to contact it. All site visits are initiated by the respective companies and are completely voluntary.

  • NIOSH Nanotechnology Field Research Effort Fact Sheet: NIOSH created a Field Research Team to assess workplace processes, materials, and control technologies associated with nanotechnology and to conduct on-site assessments of potential occupational exposure to a variety of nanomaterials. Through this effort, NIOSH intends to gather baseline data to assist in determining potential occupational safety and health implications of exposure to engineered nanomaterials and developing guidance to ensure safe working conditions. Participation is open to research laboratories, producers, and manufacturers working with engineered nanomaterials. NIOSH states that the data collected by the field research team will be communicated back to the participant.  NIOSH may then use the data in a general manner to update its guidance on occupational safety and health implications of exposure to nanomaterials, and make it available in technical documents, scientific presentations, or on the NIOSH website.  NIOSH will not identify participants in any documents that are disseminated publicly without their permission.
  • NIOSH Nanotechnology Metal Oxide Particle Exposure Assessment Study: As part of its nanotechnology research agenda, NIOSH initiated a study to investigate exposure to fine (0.1 µm to 2.5 µm diameter) and ultrafine (<0.1 µm diameter) metal oxides.  NIOSH specifically designed the study to conduct a detailed evaluation of exposures to fine and ultrafine metal oxides, and is not the same as the baseline assessment program offered by the NIOSH Nanotechnology Field Research Team.  NIOSH asks manufacturers and end-users of fine and ultrafine metal oxides to participate in this study.  NIOSH states: “More specifically, workers at these facilities who are involved in the production and use of metal oxides will be asked to participate.” According to NIOSH, participants will benefit because NIOSH’s sampling results “may provide companies with a better understanding of metal oxide exposure occurring in their facility.  Areas of contamination, if any, will be identified and recommendations to reduce exposure will be provided when possible.  A report of the findings will be sent to each company that participates.” NIOSH will use the data to determine the extent to which metal oxide exposure is occurring in the nanotechnology industry.  NIOSH states: “The information will be used for scientific research purposes only, and published study results will not identify participating companies.”