Nanotechnology - the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new materials - has the potential to transform many industries, from medicine to manufacturing, and the products they produce. Research in nanoscale technologies continues to expand worldwide. By 2015, the National Science Foundation estimates that nanotechnology will have a $1 trillion impact on the global economy and employ two million workers, one million of whom will likely reside in the United States. While this emerging technology holds great promise, it also presents unknown risks, especially to the health of workers. Many questions remain about how to best manage and control the potential hazards associated with the safe handling of nanomaterials. Thus for the period 2009-2012, NIOSH will collaborate with stakeholders at home and abroad to fill knowledge gaps related to nanotechnology, to identify and characterize hazards associated with nanomaterials, and to develop guidance for workers exposed to nanomaterials. Protecting the health of workers involved with nanotechnology is a global issue that requires international cooperation, commitment, and collaboration. Nanotechnology and NIOSH Research: The rapid spread of nanotechnology threatens to outpace knowledge about its attendant safety and health risks. As nanotechnology moves forward into all avenues of commerce, stakeholders from industry, academia, labor, occupational safety and health professions, and government must make a concerted effort to identify and characterize the human health hazards associated with nanomaterials. NIOSH will continue to play an active role in this process. In June 2007, NIOSH reported its progress in conducting nanotechnology research and drafting guidance for the safe handling of nanomaterials [see report Progress Toward Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace: A Report from NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/
, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-123]. An update of the progress report listing project updates from 2007-2008 was published in November 2009 [DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2010-104]. [http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2010-104/pdfs/2010-104.pdf
] NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC): Given the rapid growth and global reach of nanotechnology, NIOSH established the Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) in 2004 to conduct research and provide guidance to protect workers involved with nanomaterials. The NTRC and its Steering Committee consist of a diverse group of NIOSH scientists charged with overseeing the Institute's scientific and organizational plans in nanotechnology health research. The main goals of the NTRC are to: 1. Determine whether nanoparticles and nanomaterials pose risks of injuries and illnesses for workers. 2. Conduct research on applying nanotechnology to the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. 3. Promote healthy workplaces through interventions, recommendations, and capacity building. 4. Enhance global workplace safety and health through national and international collaborations on nanotechnology research and guidance. Strategic Plan: With the input of a broad range of stakeholders in government, academia, and the private sector, NIOSH developed a strategic plan for nanotechnology research and guidance. The strategic plan also highlights how NIOSH's critical research and guidance efforts align with and support the National Nanotechnology Initiative's Environmental Health and Safety priorities. For the period 2009-2012, NIOSH will continue to fill information and knowledge gaps in priority areas. Specifically, NIOSH will: 1. Conduct toxicological research on nanoparticles likely to be commercially available. 2. Conduct research to identify long-term health effects of carbon nanotubes (CNT). 3. Develop recommendations for controlling occupational exposure to fine and ultrafine titanium dioxide (TiO2) including development of recommended exposure limits (RELs). Conduct research on improving sampling and analytical methods, determining the extent of workplace exposures, and controlling airborne exposures below the REL. Identify what medical surveillance is appropriate. Consider to what extent the observed relationship between TiO2 particle size and toxicity can be generalized to other metal oxides. 4. Develop recommendations for controlling occupational exposures to purified and unpurified single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) including development of RELs. Conduct research to address gaps in information on sampling, analysis, exposure assessment, instrumentation and controls. Identify what medical surveillance or epidemiological studies are appropriate. 5. Conduct research on how to identify categories of nanoparticles that can be distinguished on the basis of similar physico-chemical properties. Conduct research to develop RELs and ultimately recommended exposure standards for these categories. 6. Conduct research on explosion potential of various nanoparticles. This plan proposes 38 activities in 10 critical areas to help protect the nanotechnology workforce. It is a large challenge but one that NIOSH is well prepared to accept.