Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials and devices. The technology promises scientific advancement in many sectors such as medicine, consumer products, energy, materials and manufacturing. Nanotechnology is generally defined as engineered structures, devices, and systems. Nanomaterials are defined as those things that have a length scale between 1 and 100 nanometers. At this size, materials begin to exhibit unique properties that affect physical, chemical, and biological behavior. Researching, developing, and utilizing these properties is at the heart of new technology.
Workers within nanotechnology-related industries have the potential to be exposed to uniquely engineered materials with novel sizes, shapes, and physical and chemical properties. Occupational health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials are not yet clearly understood. Minimal information is currently available on dominant exposure routes, potential exposure levels, and material toxicity of nanomaterials.
Studies have indicated that low solubility nanoparticles are more toxic than larger particles on a mass for mass basis. There are strong indications that particle surface area and surface chemistry are responsible for observed responses in cell cultures and animals. Studies suggests that some nanoparticles can move from the respiratory system to other organs. Research is continuing to understand how these unique properties may lead to specific health effects.
The NIOSH Effort
NIOSH leads the federal government health and safety initiative for nanotechnology.
Research and activities are coordinated through the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) established in 2004.
News and Events
- Four new documents including 3 workplace design solutions and one poster were recently published to provide options to companies for controlling possible exposure of their workers to nanomaterials on the job.
- Draft: Analysis of Carbon Nanotubes and Nanofibers on Mixed Cellulose Ester Filters by Transmission Electron Microscopy
- NIOSH Researchers Lead Development of New ISO Guidance Document
- NIOSH Director to discuss emerging technologies and worker health at Nov. 4 SUNY Poly nanotechnology event.
- NASA adapts NIOSH-funded nanoparticle sampling prototype for use on the International Space Station
- Page last reviewed: December 2, 2016
- Page last updated: January 5, 2017
- Content source:
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division