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NANOTECHNOLOGY

Composite of four images, Electron microscopy micrograph of a carbon nanofiber and carbon nanotube; Worker cleaning nano reactor wearing personal sampling equipment and sampling filters; Proper use of personal protective equipment to decrease potential skin contact; Testing the explosion potential of nanoparticles

10 Critical Topic Areas


NIOSH has identified 10 critical topic areas to guide in addressing knowledge gaps, developing strategies, and providing recommendations.

Each topic provides a brief description of the research that NIOSH is conducting in the area of nanotechnology and the applications and implications of nanomaterials in the workplace.

Toxicity and Internal Dose

  • Investigating and determining the physical and chemical properties (ex: size, shape, solubility) that influence the potential toxicity of nanoparticles
  • Evaluating short and long-term effects that nanomaterials may have in organ systems and tissues (ex: lungs)
  • Determining biological mechanisms for potential toxic effects
  • Creating and integrating models to assist in assessing possible hazards
  • Determining if a measure other than mass is more appropriate for determining toxicity

Risk Assessment

  • Determining the likelihood that current exposure-response data (human or animal) could be used in identifying and assessing potential occupational hazards
  • Developing a framework for evaluating potential hazards and predicting potential occupational risk of exposure to nanomaterials.

Epidemiology & Surveillance

  • Evaluating existing epidemiological workplace studies where nanomaterials are used
  • Identifying knowledge gaps where epidemiological studies could advance understanding of nanomaterials and evaluating the likelihood of conducting new studies
  • Integrating nanotechnology health and safety issues into existing hazard surveillance methods and determining whether additional screening methods are needed
  • Using existing systems to share data and information about nanotechnology

Engineering Controls and PPE

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of engineering controls in reducing occupational exposures to nanoaerosols and developing new controls where needed
  • Evaluating and improving current personal protective equipment
  • Developing recommendations to prevent or limit occupational exposures (ex: respirator fit testing)
  • Evaluating suitability of control banding techniques where additional information is needed; and evaluating the effectiveness of alternative materials

Measurement Methods

  • Evaluating methods of measuring mass of respirable particles in the air and determining if this measurement can be used to measure nanomaterials
  • Developing and field-testing practical methods to accurately measure airborne nanomaterials in the workplace
  • Developing testing and evaluation systems to compare and validate sampling instruments

Exposure Assessment

  • Determining key factors that influence the production, dispersion, accumulation, and re-entry of nanomaterials into the workplace
  • Assessing possible exposure when nanomaterials are inhaled or settle on the skin
  • Determining how possible exposures differ by work process
  • Determining what happens to nanomaterials once they enter the body

Fire and Explosion Safety

  • Identifying physical and chemical properties that contribute to dustiness, combustibility, flammability, and conductivity of nanomaterials.
  • Recommending alternative work practices to eliminate or reduce workplace exposures to nanoparticles.

Recommendations & Guidance

  • Using the best available science to make interim recommendations for workplace safety and health practices during the production and use of nanomaterials
  • Evaluating and updating occupational exposure limits for mass-based airborne particles to ensure good continuing precautionary practices
  • Providing guidance and publications to help provide information on the best available science for nanomaterials

Global Collaborations

  • Establishing partnerships and collaborations to allow for identification and sharing of research needs, approaches, and results
  • Developing and disseminating training and educational materials to workers and health and safety professionals

Applications

  • Identifying uses of nanotechnology for application in occupational safety and health
  • Evaluating and disseminating effective applications to workers and occupational safety and health professionals
 
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