NIOSH Industry Collaboration Aimed At "Safe" Nanomaterials

28. October 2013

NIOSH Industry Collaboration Program Aimed At ‘Safe’ Nanotechnology

The Nanotechnology Research Center of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Cincinnati, Ohio--a non-regulatory federal agency charged with conducting research and making recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths-- coordinates a program of laboratory and field investigation. The program’s aim is the development and dissemination of information on tools, practices, and recommendations for safe handling of nanoscale materials (such as grapheme, clay, silica and carbon) whose incorporation into plastics  can create exciting new properties and opportunities for new products but ought to be done in a way that limits worker exposure (i.e., “Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology”


Laboratory animal research has indicated that some types of nanoparticles can cause inflammation and fibrosis in the lung, while some can penetrate the lung and move to other bodily organs. The significance of the translocation of these nanoparticles in not yet known and the subject of further research. Recent preliminary studies in animals using nanoparticles have indicated that certain types of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MW-CNTs) can act in concert with other known carcinogens to significantly increase the potential of tumor formation.  Once nanoscale materials have been incorporated into composite materials, inhalation exposure is not likely unless the composite is then altered by drilling, sanding or cutting.


As part of its nanotechnology research agenda, NIOSH has created a field studies team which aims to establish partnerships with companies that produce or use engineered nanomaterials in order to expand and share knowledge specific to the health and safety practices needed for such materials. The voluntary nature of the collaboration is a key element of these partnerships that provides opportunities for on-site investigations by the team to assess  potential occupational exposure to a variety of nanomaterials, and to evaluate methods to mitigate exposure.


Companies interested in gaining a better understanding of proactively managing the health and safety challenges of this exciting new area, might want to consider forming a partnership with NIOSH. Not only will the company benefit from a comprehensive occupational exposure characterization and control technology assessment at no cost, but it also expands the knowledge base that benefits the industry as a whole. For further information about partnering with NIOSH and on good guidelines for handling engineered nanomaterials, visit the NIOSH Nanotechnology topic page at:

(513) 533-8250

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