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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

EID1107 - Nanotechnology 10M

Start Date: 10/1/2006
End Date: 9/30/2012

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Charles Geraci
Phone: 513-533-8339
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: EID
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goals Addressed
6.0, 9.0

Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

Nanotechnology is a rapidly developing area that has the potential to influence a large number of industrial processes and products in the manufacturing sector in the US. Worker exposure to nanomaterials, specifically free nanoparticles, represents the highest potential human exposure. The field studies conducted by this project will develop key information needed to develop guidance, training materials, and recommendations specific to workplace practices that control worker exposures. NIOSH will develop key stakeholder partnerships in the manufacturing sector to effectively disseminate the products of this project.

This program contributes directly to the NIOSH Nanotechnology Cross-Sector Program.

Major outputs from this project are: direct experience in observing and evaluating nanomaterial processes, ranging from R&D labs to, to scale up, to production, and to the creation of nano-enabled products. Intermediate outcomes are: development and delivery of detailed reports to facilities visited; communication of recommendations to sites visited; development and evaluation of nanoparticle exposure assessment techniques; and evaluation of exposure control measures taken.


This project will continue the work of a nanotechnology field team created in FY 06 by the NIOSH Director. Nanotechnology is a rapidly expanding technology that has been described as having great potential impact on the global economy. The technology involves creating or engineering materials in the nanometer size range. Particles and materials in this size range exhibit new and often unique properties that have the potential to improve the performance of many existing products. Nanomaterials are being developed and produced in quantities ranging from research scale to commercial production. Little information has been produced about the handling and control of free nanoparticles in any of the processes involved. The NIOSH field team will follow a detailed process to characterize a range of different processes where nanomaterials are either produced or used. The field teal will consist of a senior Industrial Hygienist, with additional team member(s) added as needed. The field team will focus on the following: a general description of the process or processes involved in making or using the nanoparticle materials; a qualitative assessment of the process to identify potential employee exposure points; an evaluation of existing engineering controls, if any, and an assessment of their efficacy; a qualitative assessment of exposure using several different particle characterization instruments; an evaluation of the work practices used during the handling and processing of nanomaterials; a review and assessment of any personal protective equipment or respiratory protection in use and the rationale for its use; and, finally, a review of the overall health and safety program of the facility being visited to evaluate its effectiveness in supporting good nanomaterial handling practices. NIOSH will communicate this information back to the organization being visited and will them produce and disseminate educational information on current best practices for minimizing occupational exposure risks during the various phases of nanotechnology research, development, and production. The primary vehicle for disseminating this information will be the NIOSH �Approaches to Save Nanotechnology� document on the Institute�s web site. This approach provides an opportunity to present the latest information on nanotechnology and to provide customers a means to provide feedback, ask questions, and provide examples of work.

The findings from the field team will also support the development and publishing of guidance documents, journal articles and the development of a Current Intelligence Bulletin on Carbon Nanotubes, which will present NIOSH�s current knowledge and recommendations on health effects, exposure limits, exposure monitoring, PPE, respiratory protection, and engineering controls.

This information will also be valuable to secondary users of nanomaterials who may not be producing the materials but are incorporating them into existing products. In addition to materials developed by NIOSH, partnerships with Universities and businesses will continue to be developed to conduct field assessments and incorporate their findings. This project will effect a direct translation of research into practice by communicating NIOSH research and field observations into practice by developing information documents and training tools. The time frame for this project extends into FY14 because it will be the primary means to communicate NIOSH field evaluation research results to the nanotechnology industry and to maintain an active dialogue with that community.

Mission Relevance

Nanotechnology, more specifically, the synthesis, manufacture and use of engineered nanomaterial, presents numerous challenges to the occupational safety and health profession. This new class of materials is being developed very rapidly and commercial applications are already in use. The potential hazards of these materials, however, have not been fully characterized and the resulting potential risk to workers is unknown. Addressing issues of hazard and risk at this stage in the development of the technology is critical if all the societal and economic benefits that are being identified are to be realized. A primary objective of this project is to obtain information from as many different facilities as possible, in the field, on the nature of engineered nanomaterials; the processes involved in their manufacture and use; potential worker exposures; and work practices and control procedures used where nanomaterials are produced or used. As toxicology studies identify the biologic hazards of nanomaterial, it is important to gain a better understanding of actual workplace exposures. Key issues to address specific to worker exposure are: measurement methods available for nanoparticles are not specific; lab-based methods are often not sensitive enough and lack specificity; determinants of exposure are unknown; and specific industrial processes used to manufacture or incorporate nanomaterials into products are not well characterized.