Nanotechnology Research Center: Program Description

Program Description

Nanomaterial worker cleaning a reactor

The Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) conducts research to better understand the effects of advanced materials, including engineered nanomaterials, on human health and methods to control or eliminate exposures. Nanomaterials are extremely small particles (with at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers) purposefully designed to have certain new or unique characteristics, like strength or elasticity, needed to make advanced materials and products.

NIOSH is the leading federal agency conducting research and providing guidance on the occupational safety and health implications and applications of advanced materials and nanotechnology. Given the rapid growth and global reach of nanotechnology, NIOSH established the NTRC in 2004 to identify critical issues, create a strategic plan for investigating these issues, coordinate the NIOSH research effort, develop research partnerships, and disseminate information gained. The NTRC is comprised of nanotechnology- and advanced manufacturing-related activities and projects consisting of and supported by a diverse group of scientists from various NIOSH divisions and laboratories.

NTRC works with partners in industry, labor, trade associations, professional organizations, other federal agencies, and academia. The NTRC focuses on these areas:

  • Increasing understanding of hazards and related health risks to workers who make and use advanced materials such as nanomaterials.
  • Preventing occupational exposures to advanced materials such as nanomaterials through understanding control technologies and protective technologies.

Much research is still needed to understand the impact of advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology on health, and to determine appropriate exposure monitoring and control strategies. As hazards and risks associated with advanced materials and engineered nanomaterials continue to be explored and characterized, knowledge from that research will serve as a foundation for an anticipatory and proactive approach to the introduction and use of materials in advanced manufacturing.  At this time, the limited evidence available suggests caution when potential exposures to free–unbound nanoparticles may occur.

Page last reviewed: January 16, 2019