Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content


workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZEYG - Feasibility of Industry-wide studies of workers exposed to nano-tubes

Start Date: 10/1/2008
End Date: 7/31/2010

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Mary Schubauer-Berigan
Phone: 513-841-4251
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DSHEFS
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

The project's purpose is to assess the feasibility of conducting industrywide exposure assessment and epidemiologic studies of US workers producing carbonaceous nanomaterials. This project is partially funded through an interagency agreement between CDC and the NIEHS. The project addresses the NIEHS National Toxicology Program's goal of identifying nanomaterial workplaces and production quantities. It also addresses goals of the NIOSH Manufacturing Sector and the Nanotechnology, Cancer-Reproductive-Cardiovascular, Immune and Dermal Disease Cross-Sectors. Outputs from this feasibility project will include a report describing the workplaces producing carbonaceous nanomaterials (workforce size, location, production volume, size and shape of materials produced, and engineering controls employed) and a report documenting the feasibility of industrywide epidemiologic and exposure assessment studies of carbonaceous nanomaterial producers. Intermediate outcomes may include reductions of exposures to potentially harmful nanomaterials.


The purpose of the project is to assess the feasibility of conducting industrywide exposure assessment and epidemiologic studies of workers producing carbonaceous nanomaterials in the U.S. The project will focus on manufacturing and materials applications industries involving carbonaceous engineered nanomaterials [e.g., single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNT)], on the basis of predicted toxicological endpoints and possible asbestiform behavior of these nanoparticles.

To carry out the objectives of the project, information will be collected on workplace size and growth in recent years, as well as volume and type of nanomaterials produced by manufacturers of carbonaceous nanomaterials. Information concerning presence or absence of controls, and the types of controls in place, will be gathered to the extent feasible. The information gathered will be important in determining the feasibility of future exposure assessment and epidemiologic studies, as well as health outcome surveillance, in the engineered carbonaceous nanomaterials industry.

Specific steps of the project are: a NIOSH contractor will scan company profiles in The Nanotech Report, Vol. 4, (a comprehensive industry characterization produced by Lux Research) identifying companies producing engineered carbonaceous nanomaterials and linking this with Dun and Bradstreet information on company size, location and other factors, as well as information obtained by direct contact with select company representatives. This process will be used to assemble information about companies producing engineered nanomaterials, including 1) Lists of engineered carbonaceous nanomaterials produced; 2) Characterization of size and shape of nanomaterials 3) Location of facilities and pertinent contact information (process engineer or H&S manager); 4) Size of worker population by facility; 5) Tonnage of materials used or produced; 6) Work practices and controls associated with production processes; and 7) Combined company growth (measured by change in workforce size) from 2005 - 2007. The contractor will prepare a report with the assembled information.

The project officers will use this report to assess the information's potential utility for exposure assessment, epidemiologic, and surveillance research. A NIOSH report describing the relevance of the collected information for future exposure surveys, medical surveillance, and epidemiologic research on carbonaceous engineered nanomaterials will be prepared and will be made available to other interested public health agencies. The timeline for the entire feasibility project is two years, from August 2008-July 2010.


Intermediate outcomes will be substantiated through assessment of the actions of NTP and IARC following the completion of this feasibility study and any resulting full studies, and by consulting with participants in the NIOSH Nanotoxicology Research Center and the Manufacturing Sector to assess the influence of NIOSH findings on reducing exposures to carbonaceous nanomaterials.

Mission Relevance

Engineered nano-materials represent a fast-growing but ill-characterized industry. Health effects from workplace exposures to engineered nano-materials are uncertain, but toxicological studies suggest that unique properties of engineered nano-materials, such as particle number, size, surface area, and shape, may be of greater importance than particle mass and bulk properties in determining exposure and toxicity. Nano-sized particles may be more likely to reach the bloodstream and pass through the blood-brain barrier than larger particles of the same composition and thus may represent a unique health hazard. Long, thin shape may confer asbestiform properties upon otherwise biologically inert nanomaterials.

Health effects from exposure to engineered nanomaterials are uncertain, but likely include injury at the site of initial exposure (e.g., reduced pulmonary function, fibrosis, or lung cancer) or at remote sites (e.g., immunological effects) due to translocation of the particles. Currently, no epidemiologic studies have been conducted among those working strictly with engineered nanomaterials.

This project proposes a feasibility study to identify possible candidate industries or workplaces within the Manufacturing Sector for occupational epidemiology and exposure assessment studies of engineered carbonaceous nanomaterials. This project relates to Manufacturing Strategic Goal 9: Enhance the state of knowledge related to emerging risks to occupational safety and health in manufacturing; and Strategic Goal 6: Reduce the incidence and prevalence of cancer due to exposures in the manufacturing sector. This project also contributes to several intermediate and activity/output program goals for the Cross-Sectors: specifically, the Cancer, Reproductive and Cardiovascular Cross-Sector's Intermediate Goals 1.1 (09PPCRCIG1.1): "Conduct research to reduce work-related cancer" and Intermediate Goal 4.1: "Conduct research to better define the contribution of workplace exposures � to the overall incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD)." It also contributes to the Immune and Dermal Cross-Sector's Intermediate Goal 1.1: "Contribute to the advancement of knowledge regarding the impact of occupational exposures to chemicals or biological agents on normal immune function," and the Nanotechnology's Cross-Sector activities to "Conduct research on exposure and dose as it relates to nanomaterials including determining the fate of nanomaterials in the work environment, quantitatively assessing worker exposures to nanomaterials, and determining the internal dose of workers to nanomaterials" and "Conduct research in epidemiology and surveillance in workplaces where nanomaterials are produced and used and where workers are exposed to nanomaterials." This project also directly addresses a critical need expressed by the National Toxicology Program's Plan for Nanotechnology Research to identify nanomaterials producers, as well as estimate volume of nanomaterial produced and number of workers potentially exposed.