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Protecting the nanotechnology workforce: NIOSH nanotechnology research and guidance strategic plan, 2013-2016.

Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-106, 2013 Dec; :1-53
Nanotechnology-the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new materials and devices-has the ability to transform many industries, from medicine to manufacturing, and the products they produce. By 2020, the National Science Foundation estimates, nanotechnology will have a $3 trillion impact on the global economy and employ 6 million workers in the manufacture of nanomaterial-based products, of which 2 million may be manufactured in the United States [NSF 2011]. Nanomaterials may present new challenges to understanding, predicting, and managing potential health risks to workers. Many knowledge gaps still remain on how to work safely with all of these materials. Through strategic planning, research, partnering with stakeholders, and making information widely available, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is working to continue to provide national and world leadership in providing solutions that will prevent work-related illness and injury. Nanotechnology and NIOSH Research: Nanotechnology and the commercialization of products and devices containing engineered nanomaterials could help address critical global problems concerning energy, transportation, pollution, health, and food. The potential benefits of nanotechnology are huge, and these benefits should be realized. Nonetheless, there is concern that the full potential of the societal benefits may not be realized if cautions about the adverse human health effects are not heeded and concerns are not honored. Timely, targeted research is needed to define hazards, exposures, and risks and to provide guidance for safe handling of nanomaterials. A concerted effort by industry, academia, labor, the professions, and government is needed to identify and address the knowledge gaps in a transparent and credible process that coincides with development of this new technology. NIOSH is playing an active part in this process by supporting the development of a broad spectrum of research and prevention strategies for health and safety hazards related to nanotechnology. In a series of reports [NIOSH 2007, 2009a, 2012a], NIOSH has summarized its progress in conducting nanotechnology research and recommending risk management strategies (see <a href=""target="_blank"></a>). NIOSH investigators have identified adverse health effects in animals exposed to various engineered nanomaterials; assessed exposure of workers; initiated epidemiologic research; and provided guidance on control technologies and medical surveillance. There are many questions still to be answered. A vast number of potential new nanomaterials are possible and could result in a seemingly limitless combination of physicochemical factors. There is need for an expeditious approach to controlling exposure to the large number of nanomaterials in science and commerce now and in the future. Moreover, the advanced nanomaterials under development are likely to have additional potentially hazardous characteristics that will need to be addressed [Murashov et al. 2012]. NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC): The NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) was established in 2004 to coordinate nanotechnology research across the institute. Ten critical areas of research were identified, each having at least one key scientist serving as a coordinator. The NTRC and its steering committee of critical area coordinators are responsible for developing and guiding NIOSH scientific and organizational plans in nanotechnology health and safety research. Strategic Plan: The development of nanotechnology has reached a point where it is being widely applied, and numerous nanomaterials and nano-enabled products are in commerce. Nanotechnology has the potential to provide great benefit to society, but it must be developed responsibly. This responsibility involves addressing any adverse human and environmental impacts of the technology associated with engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). Workers are among the first people in any society to be exposed to the potential health hazards caused by the products of new technology, and their exposure to any new material is often greater than for the general population. Therefore, worker safety and health can be seen as the core of responsible development. Through its strategic plan for fiscal years (FY) 2013-2016, NIOSH will marshal its resources and partner with others efficiently and effectively to advance efforts to protect the nanotechnology workforce. With the input of a broad range of stakeholders in government, academia, and the private sector, NIOSH will continue to operate under a strategic plan for nanotechnology research and guidance. The most recent previous version was published in November 2009 and included research plans through FY 2012 (see <a href=""target="_blank"></a>. This document presents the NTRC Strategic Plan for FY2013-FY2016. The strategic plan also highlights how the critical research and guidance efforts of NIOSH align with and support the comprehensive Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy needs of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. For the period FY2013-FY2016, NIOSH will continue to fill information and knowledge gaps that address the five NIOSH NTRC strategic goals: 1. Increase understanding of new hazards and related health risks to nanomaterial workers. 2. Expand understanding of the initial hazard findings of engineered nanomaterials. 3. Support the creation of guidance materials to inform nanomaterial workers, employers, health professionals, regulatory agencies, and decision-makers about hazards, risks, and risk management approaches. 4. Support epidemiologic studies for nanomaterial workers, including medical, cross-sectional, prospective cohort, and exposure studies. 5. Assess and promote national and international adherence with risk management guidance. To address these strategic goals and promote the responsible development of engineered nanomaterials, the strategic plan will expand research activities in 10 NTRC critical areas: toxicity and internal dose; measurement methods; exposure assessment; epidemiology and surveillance; risk assessment; engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE); fire and explosion safety; recommendations and guidance; global collaborations; and applications.
Nanotechnology; Injury-prevention; Health-hazards; Workers; Worker-health; Dose-response; Exposure-assessment; Epidemiology; Surveillance-programs; Risk-analysis; Engineering-controls; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Fire-hazards; Fire-safety; Explosion-prevention
Publication Date
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Numbered Publication
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
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Identifying No.
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-106; M122013
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Manufacturing; Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division